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I was wondering if an adverb in Chinese can be used to modify another adverb. I looked some resources but I could not find it. For example, in Adverb in resources.allsetlearning, they just say "Adverbs are words that modify verbs and adjectives.".

In particular, I was thinking in English you can say You speak too fast, where too is an adverb that modifies the adverb fast.

In Chinese, I know 快 can either be an adjective or an adverb.

  1. We could translate the previous English sentence to Chinese as:

    你说得太快。

    Nǐ shuō de tài kuài.

    You speak too fast.

    But here, 快 works as an adjective as it follows the structure Verb + 得 + 太 + Adj.

  2. Moreover, I think you can also say:

    你快说。

    Nǐ kuài shuō.

    You speak fast.

    Here 快 is an adverb.

  3. I was wondering if it is also possible to say:

    你太快说。

    Nǐ tài kuài shuō.

    You speak too fast.

    Where both 太 and 快 would be adverbs.

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In my opinion, 你太快说 or 你太快说放弃了 is ungrammatical although the latter is fine to use colloquially (because we have more tolerance in spoken). A correct way to express this can be 你说放弃说得太快了 or 你放弃说得太快了.

Unlike English, an adverb modifies another adverb is not a common practice in Chinese. It's an arguable point. I can only think of an adverb that can modify another one is 不. A common collocation is 不太. E. g. 我最近心情不太好,where 不 modify the adverb 太 and 太 modifies the adjective 好. However, one may argue that 不太好 can be taken as an omission of 不是太好,which looks like another structure. Maybe that's why this is a still arguable point.

Another thing I'd like to point out is 你快说 or 你快点说 implies that the speaker wants you to tell something immediately. The speed of your speech may be one of the factors that you convey something fast. But usually the whole point of 你快说 is used to express a request or solicitation to ask someone to tell something quickly/immediately. If we want someone to speak faster(increase his speed of speaking), we usually say 你说快点. So, this can be a distinction between 你快(点)说 and 你说快点.

Hope this could help.

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  • 你太快说 is a incomplete sentence because it lacks the needed object . I don't see anything ungrammatical in '你- 太快 - 说放弃 - 了' , It has the same structure as '你- 太早- 承认失败-了' – Tang Ho Jun 29 at 0:34
  • Yes, 你快说 is highly contextual as it does not necessarily means asking someone to speak faster. In one scenario it could mean "speak faster" when someone is deliberately speaking slowly, perhaps to buy time for some ulterior purpose. In another context it could mean insisting that someone tells the truth immediately when it is apparent that some truth is being deliberately hidden, as in police interrogation. Because of these two contextual assumptions, 你快说 is often considered offensive and not used in cordial conversation, unless you're playing "Truth or Dare" – Wayne Cheah Jun 29 at 3:22
  • @TangHo This could be a regional issue. I did hear the structure 你太早承认失败了. I prefer the structure 你失败承认得太早了, or even 你承认失败承认得太早了(which might look clumsy to non native speakers) Though 你太早承认失败了 is succinct enough, it's not as natural as the other two. But this probably is just me. – dan Jun 29 at 3:35
  • In school, if you write sentences like 你太快吃饭了,你太快说放弃了,etc, I do believe some teachers would correct you. – dan Jun 29 at 4:10
  • @WayneCheah Even in your scenario one, the correct phrase is still 你说快点. If you say 你快说, people might reply with 我不正在说吗? Then you would have to clarify with 你说快点 or 说快点. – dan Jun 29 at 4:32
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we don't say 你太快说

  1. 你说得太快

means you speak too fast

  1. 你快说

expresses that I want you to speak faster, it's like a request.

你快说 can be used on informal occasions (with your friends or your family). We don't say it to people you are not familiar with, they would think you are being impolite and inpatient.

You can say "你可不可以快点说?“ This sentence is better than 你快说. It's more polite and good attitude.

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    Yeah, 你快说 could be rude sometimes. 你可不可以快点说 or 你能不能快点说 is a milder way to express it. +1 – dan Jun 29 at 0:12
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  1. 太快 in 你说得太快 is a degree complement for action verb

Structure: [V +得+ degree complement]

Example: [她 做得 很好。](She worked very well.); [你 说得 太快] (You speak too fast)

~

  1. 快 in 你快说 short for 快些 or 快點. It is an adverb for 'faster/ more quickly', and the sentence means "you, more quickly, speak" (a demand or request)
  • 快些说 = "more quickly, speak" (hurry and start to talk)

  • 说快些 = "talk faster" (increase the speed of you speech)

~

  1. "你太快说 ~" means "you said ~ too quickly" (the verb 说 here needs an object). 太 is an adverb, 快 is an adjective. together they act as an adverb that modify the verb 说

Example: 你太快说放弃了 (you said give up too quickly)

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  • So just to make it explicit, option 3 is also grammatically correct and it is true an adverb can modify another adverb such as in 你太快说? – Puco4 Jun 28 at 20:14
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    太 is the degree complement , it's simply an adverb in front of an adjective 快 (fast), and together they modify the verb. 你太快(地)说放弃了。 What is commonly referred to as degree complement is the one introduced by 得 in your example number 1 (as you correctly remarked) – blackgreen Jun 28 at 20:15
  • @TangHo honestly I would call 太快 in your example 3 just a verb modifier. I'm not sure it's correct to call it degree complement at all, as that normally indicates [V + 得 + degree complement] – blackgreen Jun 28 at 20:23
  • Ok, so then adverbs in Chinese can only modify verbs and adjectives? – Puco4 Jun 28 at 20:24
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    太快 in your example 3 just a verb modifier I agree. – Tang Ho Jun 28 at 20:25

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