Could someone explain the meaning of every character after "也" in "回也其庶乎"?

I'd appreciate your help.

3 Answers 3


This comes from Confucius's 论语 (Analects).

For the sake of other readers, let's break down the entire sentence:

回 refers to Yanhui 颜回, a character in the Analects

也 is a final particle in classical Chinese, which here separates the topic from the comment

其 in classical Chinese means "his/hers/its" or simply "it" referring to something already mentioned before. Here it's likely to be the former.

庶 (shu4) stands for 庶几 "almost", "maybe", used in a similar way as 差不多 "almost done"

乎 in classical Chinese is (among others) a final particle used in a similar way to 呢 (and I would say also 嘛)

So putting it all together, it becomes close to:

Yanhui, his [something mentioned before] is almost done.

Source: Analects 11-19 commentary (in Chinese)



in 魏 dynasty, mr 何晏 explained as:


then, in 宋 dynasty, mr 朱熹 explained as:


afterward, in 明 dynasty, mr 胡廣 explained as:

大意謂・顔子不以貧窶動其心・故聖人見其於道庶幾 . . .

if you do not need extra speculations, mr 朱’s explanation is enough.

so, read it as:

回 - refer to confucius’s favourite disciple “顏回”

也 - a modal particle, adjusting the mood / tone (語氣) of the verse

其 - his / that —> he’s

庶 - nearly [ a saint | attain the tao (道)]

乎 - also a modal particle, like using “one of” in “one of the best” even when this “one” is the best.

if you consider to comprehend the texts in wider context (from 柴也愚 to 億則屢中), mr 胡廣’s book is a good reading (page 109-119):

四書大全 論語集註大全 卷十一

have fun :)

  • I find the reference of 其 dubious. If it refers to 回,it seems redundant. But what could it refer to in the context?
    – Apollyon
    Jun 20, 2020 at 6:24
  • well, it’s an interpretation. another possible answer is, his (其) [manner / behaviour to get along with people 做人處世] is near a saint. well, i think that a shortcut of “being” is suitable in this verse. Jun 20, 2020 at 6:55
  • If 其 means "his," is the expression for "manner in which one deals with others" found in the context?
    – Apollyon
    Jun 20, 2020 at 7:00
  • well, like dream-analysis, people would have different interpretations on the same object / scenario. Jun 20, 2020 at 7:17
  • It seems that Classical Chinese is a load of guesswork, unsuitable as a vehicle for precise expression.
    – Apollyon
    Jun 20, 2020 at 7:24

I agree with @blackgreen on most points but one:

其 is not a pronoun here! 其 means 大概 probably, as in:


Besides, it isn't [something mentioned before], but 孔子 implied that 颜回 is almost perfect.

  • But "庶" already means "probably."
    – Apollyon
    Jun 20, 2020 at 2:42

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