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Can you use both of these interchangeably? Is one more common than the other? I also haven't seen this pattern used with other verbs. Are there other verbs where this is commonly used as well?

  • Hi Horatio, can you please clarify your question? Do you mean interchangeable in any grammatical role in the sentence (他是不是你的朋友), or when used at the end of the sentence as confirmation(他是你的朋友,是不是)? – blackgreen Jul 6 at 12:28
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If you're talking about using them in disjuctive questions, they're equivalent and interchangeable:

你又喝酒了,是不是/对不对?
You had a drink, don't you?

But 是不是 can also be used inside a question to show emphasis:
你是不是又喝酒了?
Didn't you just drink again?

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  • Just to clarify, in the above scenario you would never say 你又喝酒了,喝不喝? right? – Horatio Jul 6 at 12:46
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    Right. You will say "你喝不喝酒?" (Would you like to drink or not? ) – Aurus Huang Jul 6 at 12:51
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We sometimes translate both 是 and 对 as "yes". However, they're very distinct in meaning: 是 is a verb meaning "is", whereas 对 is an adjective meaning "correct". (Putting aside how both 是 and 对 have multiple other meanings.)

你女朋友。
She is your girlfriend.

,她我女朋友。
Correct Yes, she is my girlfriend.

We translate 对 to "yes" in English because "correct" sounds overly formal.

We might instead reply using the verb 是:

,她我女朋友。
Yes, she is my girlfriend.

We don't really have an equivalent to this in English. By repeating the verb 是, we affirm the previous statement is correct. Otherwise we might say one of:

不对,她不是我女朋友。
Incorrect No, she is not my girlfriend.

不是,她不是我女朋友。
No, she is not my girlfriend.

We can use 是不是 and 对不对 as affirmative-negative questions:

你有儿子,是不是
你有儿子,对不对? [equivalent]
You have a son, right?

你是不是我妈? [here we cannot use 对不对 instead]
Are you or are you not Are you my mother?

他的行为对不对? [here we cannot use 是不是 instead]
Is his behavior correct or not correct correct?

And many verbs and adjectives can be used this way.

你吃不吃
You eat or not eat Do you want to eat some?

有没有手机?
Do you have or not have have a mobile phone?

天气好不好
Is the weather good or not good good?

你的皮肤白不白
Is your skin white or not white white?

Furthermore, these constructions are sometimes used outside of questions, e.g.:

我不知道他是不是结婚了。
I don't know if he is or not is is married.

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  • 1
    "我不知道他是不是结婚。" – dan Jul 6 at 12:32
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They are not interchangeable

"是不是?" (literally means: 'is, isn't') = "is it?" in English

"对不对?" (literally means: 'correct, incorrect') = "correct?" or "right?" in English

~

"是不是+ [object]?" = "is it + [object]?" e.g. "Is it a gun?"

"对不对 + [object]?" (X)

~

You can use the same structure with other verbs

Example:

"去不去?" (going or not going?) = "going or not?"

"去不去 + [location]?" = "do you want to go to [location]?" e.g. "去不去美国?" (do you want to go to America?)

"吃不吃?" (eat or not eat) = "eat it or not?"

"吃不吃 + [object]?" = "do you want to eat [object]?" e.g. 吃不吃苹果? (do you want to eat apples?)

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Simple:

"是不是" = Is Or Not Is

"对不对" = Right Or Not Right

where that "is" is the strict sense of "identity" between two things named, and excluding "possessed of a quality" (which needs a degree modifier to link an adjective - hence it only ever takes two nouns as arguments), and "right" as in "agree" or "correct" or "assent".

In this case, they both work because in

"你是又喝酒了"

the declarative form, it's saying you are identical with a "has-completed(了)-drinking(喝)-booze(酒)-again(又)-one" (the "one" is implied). The "又喝酒了" is actually a noun (phrase).

But also 对 works, but then you should put it at the end, and drop the "是", because you are saying you have drank, not you are a have-drank-one, and are asking if this is correct, i.e.

"你又喝酒了, 对不对?"

In theory,

"你是又喝酒了, 对不对?"

would be correct too, but I don't know if that's how people actually talk.

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