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I'm trying to convey the sentence "我不会好好发音四个声调" But that more directly translates as "I cannot pronounce four tones well" which is a bit ambiguous... that begs the question, which four tones? I'm sure anyone I say this to would understand but it doesn't sit well with me. In English it is easy, I'd say "I cannot pronounce the four tones well" which implies the existence of exactly 4 tones, all of which I have trouble pronouncing. So far I have not seen a Chinese equivalent?

  • First thought the could be translated to , sometimes is equivalent to this – Conifers Nov 13 at 1:01
  • 普通话的四声, or 普通话的声调, or even just 声调 – Stumpy Joe Pete Nov 13 at 1:33
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    mā (妈) má (麻) mǎ (马) mà (骂) ma (吗) <- 4 tones or 5 tones? – Becky 李蓓 Nov 13 at 2:31
  • this Chinese sentence is grammatically incorrect. 发音 is a noun, you can say 我不会好好发四个声调, and 好好 sounds wired here too, because this way, it's very subjective, and it sounds like you don't want to pronounce the four tones correctly. I would simply not use 好好 (我不会发四个声调), or just say 我发不好四个声调 – sylvia Nov 13 at 16:58
  • @sylvia I just threw this sentence together and even I doubted it was grammatically correct but somehow nobody corrected it until now lol – 小奥利奥 Nov 13 at 21:28
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The definite article has no equivalence in Chinese. Its functions, however, can be found in Chinese.

  1. Something previously mentioned or known

Compare:

He is a murderer. 他是杀人犯。(杀人犯 is a murderer, a man that has commited murder. 个 is like the indefinite article.)

He is the murderer.

By using nouns inherently specific.

他就是凶手。(凶手 is the murderer , it cannot be used without context. 他是个凶手(incorrect))

By using demonstratives: 这/那/这些/那些/此/彼

他就是这个杀人犯。

  1. Something unique or identified by the speaker, terminologies.

I cannot pronounce the four tones well.

我发不好四声。(平上去入(tradition)/阴阳上去(modern mandarin), as a whole isn't referred as 四个声调)

Particularly, these sets of similar things are usually referred without measure words.

四书/十三经/六艺/五行/四君子/十八罗汉/一百零八星宿......

Unique things, such as the sun, the moon... are referred exactly its name (Actually the definite article is unnecessary semantically)

As for "I want to go to a/the park", it's not hard to appreciate that 我想去公园。 already fully conveys the two possible interpretation, depending on the listener.

  • In a general sense, is the inclusion or exclusion of a measure word (个 for instance) the difference between definite and indefinite quantities? For instance, 我有三书 vs 我有三本书, would the former translate as "I have the 3 books" and the latter translate as "I have 3 books" or is the former just grammatically incorrect? An example I found online is "三书六礼" (aka Three Letters and Six Etiquette) or is this an exception because it is a proper noun? – 小奥利奥 Nov 14 at 3:13
  • @小奥利奥 我有三书 is incorrect. The measure word shouldn't be dropped there. – dan Nov 14 at 8:35
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    This kind of abbreviation is just for proper nouns. "I have three books."我有三本书。 "I have the three books"我有那三本书。/三本书我有。 – Toosky Hierot Nov 14 at 14:17
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The is rarely explicitly expressed in Chinese. Like the comments mentioned below your question, the closest equivalent is going to be a combination of 这 (this) or 那 (that) and the appropriate measure word. You might notice Chinese ESL speakers struggle with definite articles in English and that is because similar usage is not found in Chinese.


As for the specific sentence you’re trying to write, you’re better off with saying something more general like:

  • (我的)口音很重

  • (我)说话不标准

  • (我说话)有点洋腔洋调的

  • (我的中文)说得不好

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Seems you have the same problem as me! :(

I cannot pronounce the four tones well. 我不能准确地发音四个声调。

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