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I encountered the following sentence recently: 这个重大责任, 就是对民族的责任。 I loosely translated it to: "This important responsibility is the nation's responsibility." But grammatically, I was confused by the use of 就是 and 对. I would have written it without those words. What grammatical function do 就是 and 对 play in the sentence?

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  1. "这个重大责任, []民族的责任。" - "This major responsibility, [is] the people's responsibility "

  2. "这个重大责任, [就是]民族的责任。" - "This major responsibility, [exactly is] the people's responsibility "

  3. "这个重大责任, [就是][] 民族的责任。" - "This major responsibility, [exactly is] the responsibility [for] the people"

In all cases, '这个重大责任' is the topic of a [topic + comment/opinion] sentence

The comment/ opinion:

  • 1b. '是民族的责任'" (is people's responsibility) is the comment on the topic

  • 2b. '是' = 'is' ; '就是' = 'exactly is' ; '就' has many meanings. However, in this sentence, it means 'exactly', which emphasize the verb '是', not only "it is", it "exactly is"

  • 3b. '对'(toward) = 'for' ; it is a preposition that indicates which object this responsibility is for

民族的责任 = the people's responsibility

[]民族[]责任 = responsibility [toward/ for] the people

Rephrase in English grammar: "This major responsibility, is the responsibility for the people"

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就是 is more like "that is" in English. It's an emphasis on the explanation of the afforementioned "责任".

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对...的责任 means "responsibility to ..."

就是 translates as "is" here. The character 就 may be what is confusing you, it's a very common character that is hard to explain but you will get a feel for it as you learn more Chinese.

Overall translation:

这个重大责任, 就是对民族的责任。
This great responsibility is a responsibility to the nation (where nation implies "people" rather than "country“)

"Duty" would also be a valid choice rather than "responsibility", depending on the context.

Hope that helps.

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