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Can the word 抓 and 捉 be used interchangeably? The English translations seems similar.

  • when you emphasize an action, 抓 is preferred。 – Daniel Yeung Jan 17 at 0:16
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抓 and 捉 can be used interchangeably when it means 'catch; capture; arrest'

For example:

老鼠 = 老鼠 = catch/capture mice

警察來人 = 警察來人 police come to arrest someone

In the context of 'catch; capture; arrest' , 抓 is more colloquial, 捉 is more literary

抓 contains the meanings of 'get hold of/grab; seize'

which it doesn't share with 捉

Example:

緊這個機會 (get hold of this opportunity) cannot be written as 捉緊這個機會 because 'get hold of' is different from 'capture/catch'

起武器 (grab weapon) cannot be written as 捉起武器 because 'grab' here refers to 'get hold of', not 'capture/catch'

權 (seize power) cannot be written as 捉權 because 'seize' here refers to ''get hold of', not 'capture/catch'

抓 also contains the meanings of 'to scratch'

which it doesn't share with 捉

Example:

抓癢 (scratch an itch)

抓眼珠 (scratch eyeball)

Also: 抓狅 (catch a madness = become crazy) cannot be written as 捉狅 because '抓狅' is a set phrase; 捉姦 (catch an affair in action) cannot be written as 抓姦 because '捉姦' is a set phrase

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For the part talking about seizing the chance both character can be used but 抓 is more for written Chinese and speaking mandarin while 捉 is for speaking (I speak Cantonese)

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see dictionaries, e.g. bkrs: scratch; clutch, seize, grab 1) 动 搔。 如:「抓痒」、「抓头」。 2) 动 用手或爪取物。 如:「抓一把花生米。」 文选.枚乘.上书谏吴王:「十围之木,始生而櫱,足可搔而绝,手可擢而抓。」 3) 动 捕捉、捉拿。 如:「抓贼」、「抓小偷」。 4) 动 把握、掌握。 如:「抓住机会」、「抓住要点」 syn. 相关: 办案, 围捕, 拘, 拘捕, 捉, 捉住, 捉拿, 捕, 搜捕, 缉, 缉拿, 缉捕, 追捕, 通缉, 逮, 逮捕

grasp, clutch; catch, seize 1) 动 握住、拿。 如:「捉襟见肘」。 南朝宋.刘义庆.世说新语.容止:「自以形陋不足雄远国,使崔季珪代,帝自捉刀立床头。」 2) 动 逮捕、抓住。 如:「捕捉」、「活捉」、「捉贼」、「捕风捉影」、「猫捉老鼠」。 3) 动 戏弄。 如:「捉弄」。syn. 同义: 秉, 拿, 持, 执 相关: 俘, 俘获, 俘虏, 执, 抓, 捕, 擒, 活捉, 生俘, 生擒, 获, 虏, 逮

  • Hey! Is it possible to provide some explanations in English? I don't really understand the Chinese meanings. 🙏🙏 – Nephilim Jan 14 at 8:31
  • examples in LINE dictionary and iciba with complete English translations, would seem to give a good idea when interchangeable and when not – user6065 Jan 14 at 8:34
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The accepted answer is very good. I just wanna add something that might help explain when these two both mean catch.

For me as a Chinese speaker, 抓 seems to catch larger things than 捉. The things to 捉 seems to be more agile like a mouse. When you use 抓, it seems you can just use brutal force to catch it, like a criminal. So a common Chinese phrase 老鹰捉/抓小鸡 makes sense in both cases.

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