I know that I'm asking about an expression which doesn't have to follow the normal rules of grammar. But if it makes sense to ask, I'd like to understand if that sentence is literally structured as "happily meeting you" or if it's "(I) am happy meeting you".

Or to put it another way, am I good or is the meeting good? Is it "我很好了,认识你" or "(我)(很高兴认识)你"

  • what precedes this phrase? If 你好吗 precedes it, it could be the reply: I am fine, (all the better for) getting to know you.cf. iciba: "How are you?" —"All the better for seeing you." “你好吗?”—“好,看见你更好了。” – user6065 Jul 22 at 23:33
  • Possibly related: chinese.stackexchange.com/q/19/9732 – jf328 Jul 23 at 12:49
  • 1
    很高兴 is an adjectival phrase, and using it as an adverbial phrase to premodify a verb would, I think, be highly unusual in Mandarin, if not completely ungrammatical. To modify a verb with an adjective, it has to be turned into an adverb, just like in English: English adds -ly (as in “I happily met you”, not “*I happy met you”), and Chinese adds the suffix 地 -de. So adverbially, you’d say (我)很高兴认识你 (“I am making your acquaintance in a happy way”). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 23 at 14:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The answer is quite simple, it is a common practice in Chinese (and any other language) that when the identity of the subject (or object) is clear, it is routinely omitted.

The subject in "很高兴认识你" is clearly "我" because "很高兴认识你" is a sentence spoken from the speaker to a second person. It didn't indicate the subject was anyone else beside the speaker. Unless it clearly stated "我的父亲很高兴认识你" in which "我的父亲" would be the subject.

Likewise, if "很高兴认识你" is a written sentence, the omitted subject would clearly be the writer unless stated otherwise.

  • "when the identity of the subject is clear" in English we substitute a pronoun. So pro-tip that in Chinese it is often omitted entirely. – Ben Jackson Jul 23 at 6:58

很高兴认识你 is a general greeting, which is used when you meet a person for the first time. The literal translation is "Very glad to know you!". In practice, It's like saying "Nice to meet you!" in English. Nice to meet you! is shorthand for It's nice to meet you! in my opinion.

很高兴认识你 can be paraphrased as: 我很高兴认识你 (I'm happy to meet you.)or 认识你是(一件很让人)高兴的事情 (it's a very nice thing that I can meet you). Pulling 很高兴 ahead has some effect of emphasis. You can also say 认识你很高兴. With 我 implied, it sounds more like a generic formal greeting, rather than a personal one.

If you say 认识你很高兴, that doesn't sound like a generic business meet, but rather personal(may have some romantic implication sometimes). It implies that you are impressed by the person you meet, you are kind of person I want to meet, and those kind of ideas.

In fact, 很高兴认识你 is a more native Chinese style. We know Chinese is also SVO mainly, but Chinese do not often use 我 at the beginning, yes, Chinese sometimes omit the subject 我.

So if you read some writings that full of sentences lead by 我, the writer's Chinese could be influenced by English.

  • Subjects are more often omitted in speech, not as much in writing. – Nimrod Jul 28 at 5:41

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