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I am wondering how Chinese grammar handles complex verb phrases. Like in English you can have up to 4 (from what I've seen) verbs chained together. I wanted to post some examples of these verb phrases here and see how they are translated into Chinese, and then what the literal linguistic gloss is of the Chinese translation.

So for example,

They would have been eating dinner.

Google translate (I know...) gives:

他们本来要吃晚饭
Tāmen běnlái yào chī wǎnfàn

What does this look like in pieces / in a linguistic gloss?

他们-本来-要-吃-晚饭
they-originally-to-eat-dinner

I just hacked the string of chinese characters into parts, so don't use my translation lol. But this is what I'm looking for.

This will show me how Chinese handles complex verb phrases. The examples I am hoping to get answered are:

They would have been eating dinner
They would have kept being able to eat dinner
They would have not been eating dinner
They would have not been able to keep eating dinner

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I don't think that you have complex verb phrases here. All I can see is a single verb phrase (V-O eat dinner). In English, you can attach different grammatical units to a verb to indicate, among other things, the time the action takes place (past/ present/ future ...), the mood (indicative, subjunctive ... ), the aspect (continuous, completed ...) and so on.

"Would have been eating" is not a string of 4 verbs, but rather, a single verb "eat". "-ing" tells me that it is a continuous action; "would have" indicates that the "eating" is actually not occurring, meaning they are not actually eating, but eating was their original plan. For some reason not expressed in this sentence, they changed their plan and are not eating. In English, all this complex meaning can be expressed using grammatical units such as "would have", "been -ing".

Chinese, however, expresses these ideas differently. Semantic units, rather than grammatical units, are employed. Hence the word "originally" used by Google Translate. Actually, I think Google is doing a pretty good job here. It is able to decipher the grammatical unit "would have" as implying a change in the original plan, and employs a semantic unit "本来" for the job.

Here's how I would translate the sentences, without knowing the context. In context, I might do it differently.

They would have been eating dinner.

他們本來應該在吃晚飯。

They would have kept being able to eat dinner.

他們本來應該可以繼續吃晚飯。

They would have not been eating dinner.

I would prefer "They would not have been eating dinner."

他們本來不應該在吃晚飯。

They would have not been able to keep eating dinner.

I would prefer "They would not have been able to keep eating dinner."

他們本來不應該可以繼續吃晚飯。

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