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From a MandarinCorner.org video I Hate Getting My Period (audio and transcript link; video is also searchable on YouTube), we have the following sentence:

不知道大家觉得做女人最大的悲哀是什么?

Bù zhīdào dàjiā juédé zuò nǚrén zuìdà de bēi'āi shì shénme?
不知道大家觉得做女人最大的悲哀是什么?
I don't know what you think is the difficult thing about being a woman?

I'm confused as to why 做 is in this sentence; it seems to serve some kind of grammatical function I'm not aware of. It looks like it could be omitted without problem. I also feel a bit of a mismatch between both 做 and 是 in the sentence.

Question: Why is 做 in the sentence 不知道大家觉得做女人最大的悲哀是什么?

Looking up 做 using the PeraPera Chinese Popup Dictionary:

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to do; to make; to produce; to write; to compose; to act as; to engage in; to hold (a party); to be; to become; to function (in some capacity); to serve as; to be used for; to form (a bond or relationship); to pretend; to feign; to act a part; to put on appearance

Among many definitions, there's "to be", "to act as", and "to produce" on the list, which seem closest in meaning. The 做 in the given sentence functions something like "is" (approximately "is the greatest annoyance"), which is typically performed by 是 (and this also occurs in the sentence). However, we obviously can't just interchange 是 and 做 throughout Chinese.

I'm more familiar with using 做 to form a verb (e.g. 做饭 "cook food" and 做工业 "do homework") rather than in this case 做悲哀 which seems along the lines of "give rise to annoyance".

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    being; acting as; playing the role of. – NS.X. Jun 6 '18 at 3:42
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    Did you consult any dictionaries? – user3306356 Jun 6 '18 at 3:47
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做 here is a verb, according to Oxford, meaning:

5 充当 be

they give three examples:

做个好孩子 be a good child

做老实人 be an honest person

做秘书 be a secretary

Pleco's PLC dictionary also has this verbal meaning:

4 be; become

做演员 zuò yǎnyuán become an actor or actress; go on the stage

后来她做保育员了。 Hòulái tā zuò bǎoyùyuán le. Later she became a child-care worker.

今天开会由你做主席。 Jīntiān kāihuì yóu nǐ zuò zhǔxí. You’ll be the chairman at today’s meeting.


做女人 means, as the subtitles correctly translated above, to be a woman.

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做 is being.

是 is to be.

做女人 means being a woman.

是什麼 means is what (what is).

You don't have to look at those 2 things together!

And if you omit the 做 in the sentence:

不知道大家觉得女人最大的悲哀是什么?

It becomes:

I don't know (I wonder) what everybody think the biggest sorrow of a woman is?

As opposed to the original meaning

I don't know (I wonder) what everybody think the biggest sorrow of being a woman is?

Can you see the subtle difference!?

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