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Thinking about the Difference between 与,和 and 跟?, I was wondering if it can be argued that 和 (hé) and 跟 (gēn) have different grammatical functions. I understand 和 corresponds in English to the conjunction and and 跟 to the preposition with. Then, if we consider the example:

我喜欢和他聊天儿。

Wǒ xǐhuān hé tā liáotiānr.

Literally means: I like (that) (me) and him chat. Here, (我)和他 (me) and him is the subject of the subordinate clause (我)和他聊天儿 (me) and him chat.

While:

我喜欢跟他聊天儿。

Wǒ xǐhuān gēn tā liáotiānr.

Literally means: I like to chat with him. Here 跟他 with him is a verbal complement of the verb 聊天儿 to chat.

Question: Is it correct to say that 和 and 跟 have the same semantic meaning, but a different grammatical function?

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  • No, in 我喜欢和他聊天儿, 和 just means 跟.
    – dan
    Aug 14 '20 at 11:11
  • @dan so both work as verbal complements meaning with?
    – Puco4
    Aug 14 '20 at 11:14
  • Yes, both mean I like to chat with him.
    – dan
    Aug 14 '20 at 11:16
  • Maybe then 和 would only mean and if we had 我喜欢我和他聊天儿。I like (that) me and him chat.?
    – Puco4
    Aug 14 '20 at 11:23
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    我喜欢我和他聊天 is strange. We expect 我喜欢和他聊天 instead. 和他: with him.
    – dan
    Aug 14 '20 at 11:45
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和/跟 have a few differences in usage:

  • 和/跟 can both mean the conjunction and and the preposition with. When meaning and, 和/跟 is used in almost the exact same places as the English "and". In this meaning, 和/跟 are interchangeable but 跟 is more colloquial and informal than 和. Thus, the usage of 跟 should be a lot less frequent when meaning "and" in writing.

  • 跟 can also mean follow. In this meaning, 跟 is more likely to be used as a verb but also possible as a preposition (in which case the distinction from 和 is blurred). A verb example:

    紧跟着党.

    "tight follow -ing party" or "follow the party closely".

    Some verb/preposition examples:

    跟我来.

    Verb: "Follow me come".

    Preposition: "Come with me".

    跟我走天下

    Verb: (literally) "Follow me walk heaven earth."

    Preposition: (a more proper translation) "Travel the world with me."

    我跟他去打猎

    Verb: "Following him, we go hunting" (with the possible connotation of he leads, he teaches).

    Preposition: "I go hunting with him."

When using 跟, there is an ambiguity between the meaning of "follow" or "with", which is usually resolved with the context. For example in 跟我走天下, depending on the situation we could rewrite 随我走天下 (which gives more emphasis towards "following") or 和我走天下. Instead, 和 does not induce the same ambiguity. 和 is not considered as an action and does not mean "follow". Thus to disambiguate on 跟 you can use 和 instead to emphasize "and" and use "conjugate" 跟着 in order to accentuate "follow".


Turning to your example, both

我喜欢和他聊天儿.

我喜欢跟他聊天儿.

have no semantic differences. They mean "I like chatting with him". 和 and 跟 are interchangeable and the alteration from "and" to "with" with "him" placed in a different location is an English artifact. However, you can consider 和/跟 both as a conjunction or preposition. Two possibilities:

  1. 和他/跟他 can be categorized as a preposition phrase (PP) formed out of the preposition 和/跟 and the noun phrase (NP) formed of a single noun 他. In this case, 喜欢和/跟他聊天儿 is a verb phrase (VP) consisting of verb + PP + NP. 喜欢 is the verb. 聊天儿 is a noun phrase of a single noun. More broadly, there may be multiple PP in that same place. So verb + PP (optional; repeatable) + NP is one way to define verb phrases. The final sentence is NP + VP with the NP formed out of a single noun 我. NP + VP is the way we typically categorize English sentences. You can see a clear SVO ordering out of categorization in such style. Visually, the breakdown looks like 我[喜欢|和他|聊天儿].

聊天儿 is ordinarily an action but categorized as a noun in this case. It is plausible because, in Chinese, there would not be morphological changes from verb to noun the way English conjugates words by for example adding -ing. (This also mean that even if a verb is rarely used as a noun, it will not appear strange if you start doing so because it is so frequently done elsewhere. To be sure, 聊天儿 as a noun in the same vein chatting as a noun is not strange in Chinese.)

  1. 和/跟 may also be conjunctions. 和/跟他 may be a short-hand of 我和/跟他 with 我 omitted. This categorization is not as contrived as it first meets eyes when you consider 1st/2nd person pronouns are often omitted in Chinese and especially so when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence or is already mentioned. With that, 我和他/我跟他 is a noun phrase formed out of noun (omitted) + conjunction + noun; 聊天儿 is a verb phrase of a single verb; and 我和/跟他聊天儿 is a dependent clause which by itself would be a sentence formed out of NP + VP. So the verb phrase 喜欢和/跟他聊天儿 is the short-hand of 喜欢我和/跟他聊天儿. The verb phrase consists of verb + NP with NP being a noun clause. The final sentence is still NP + VP with the NP consisting of a single noun 我. Visually, the breakdown looks like 我[喜欢{(我)和他|聊天儿}].

Note that unlike in English, Chinese clauses have no morphological changes from their sentential equivalents. ie. English may use that/when/while/which, may change tense, may change from inquisitive to declarative in ordering, Chinese do not do those.

Now you may be confused as to why I keep enforcing verb phrase of a single verb or noun phrase of a single noun. That is for consistency when we expend the system to a greater set of examples (ie. not in this question). The noun phrase 我和他 gives a clue. It is definitely not a single noun. But its position in sentences is similar to a single noun. In actuality, it is more consistent to see it the other around. Single nouns can form a noun phrase by themselves or can have adjective, and/or noun + conjunction in front of or after; on top of that, these decorations/modifications are repeatable.


I am not one of those who posit that grammatical categories are unique and stable. I think the guideline is which system can explain/predict Chinese sentences in the most complete and simple way. But in limited examples, we cannot conclude one way or the other.

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  • Well, for me I like chatting with him and I like that you and me chat have the same meaning, just only different grammatical structures. So in the example, I understand you say both 跟他 / 和他 are grammatically complements of the verb 聊天儿 right?
    – Puco4
    Aug 19 '20 at 8:47
  • For me "I like chatting with him" and "I like that you and me chat" have the same meaning too. No subtle differences. Just the same. That's the same between 跟他 / 和他. For analyzing the grammatical components, I see 2 ways to consider the example actually. One is to consider 和他聊天儿 a single noun phrase, formed out of a preposition phrase + noun phrase. The preposition phrase consists of a preposition (ie. considering 和 as preposition) and a noun 他. The noun phrase in English would be a verb conjugate made into a noun; in Chinese, so many verbs are commonly used as noun, it won't feel
    – Argyll
    Aug 19 '20 at 13:36
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    (cont) the other way is that you can probably say 和他聊天儿 is a short hand for 我和他聊天儿. It's not as contrived as first meets the eyes when you consider that Chinese sentences typically omit first person subject. And so 我和他 is a noun phrase. 我和他聊天儿 would be a clause in English; but in Chinese, perhaps you can say any sentence can automatically be a clause without further modification. Otherwise, we still get the same sentence structure. The difference is whether 和 is being a conjunction or preposition. @Puco4 Not sure what grammatical complement means. If you mean preposition phrase, it could work
    – Argyll
    Aug 19 '20 at 13:43
  • 1
    @Puco4: I'll probably need to rearrange things a bit to incorporate that. Give me some time. Cheers
    – Argyll
    Aug 19 '20 at 14:19
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    @Puco4: Also I browsed through some literature. The custom is to group the verb into verb phrase (the "predicate" part; the 2nd part of the sentence) as much as possible. That makes sense. That accommodates linking verb + adjective type of structure better. So I made the change there too. Hope I didn't confuse you. And I don't want you to keep remembering the wrong idea because of me.
    – Argyll
    Aug 20 '20 at 19:11
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and may have the same grammatical function, when they introduce a verbal company complement, occurring before the verb. Then both are prepositions. Even more so, in the linked Zdic entries, both of them are respectively used to define the other:

【和】: 连词,,同:我~老师打球。

【跟】: ,同:我~他在一起工作。

In that case, they both describe together with whom the action occurs and can be used interchangeably:

我喜欢他聊天 and 我喜欢他聊天

你说一下 and 我你说一下

我想我父母去度假 and 我想我父母去度假

As you can see, they are used when the noun refers to a human.


That aside, 和 also works as a conjunction, as Zdic notes (连词), more specifically to coordinate nouns1. In that case, it can't be grammatically replaced with 跟:

西班牙葡萄牙,我都去过

登机前请您准备好护照登机牌


Additional Notes

The linked Zdic entries may appear confusing with respect to a point: I say that 跟 is interchangeable with 和 when they both are prepositions, but Zdic uses 跟 to define 和 when it's a conjunction! From the 和 entry:

  1. 连词,跟,同:我~老师打球。

  2. 介词,向,对:我~老师请教。

The examples provided there also don't do a good job at disambiguating, as the position of the word in both 我~老师打球 and 我~老师请教 is exactly the same.

I think that's a mistake of the dictionary, because 跟 is grammatically equivalent to 和 only when used as a preposition (介词) — in that case, Zdic is more accurate, as 跟 is defined in terms of 向 and 对 just as 和 is.

My examples above show the role of 和/跟 as prepositions by placing the prepositional phrase as not contiguous to the subject of the main sentence.


1: you can't use 和 to coordinate verbs, or entire sentences

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  • re your footnote 1: yes you can. 我想去西班牙踢球和冲浪。 我想去西班牙度假和葡萄牙买酒. 和 is one of the most universal conjunctions (and prepositions?) with no syntactical restrictions -- much like the English "and". As for the characterization of 和 as preposition, I don't see it. That may be juxtaposing English linguistic structure onto Chinese?
    – Argyll
    Aug 18 '20 at 20:56
  • @Argyll 和 can't be used to link verbs. The fact that it can be easily understood doesn't mean it's correct. As a conjunction it's typically a noun conjunction. An easy counter-example, taken from the internet: 你要按照我说的做并且要做好 in here 和 clearly doesn't work. Verb or clause juxtaposition is rendered with 并、且、以及、及 etc. As for the "together with", I removed the quotes. I'm not suggesting the translation is always "together with".
    – blackgreen
    Aug 19 '20 at 15:29
  • An alternative way of seeing why 和 does not replace 并且 in 你要按照我说的做并且要做好 is that 并且 is a preposition that link sentences in the same class as "as well + comma", "in addition + comma" while 和 is not. Rather, whether two actions are involved, 和 never replaces 并且.
    – Argyll
    Aug 19 '20 at 15:34
  • @Argyll English "every day I go to class by bike and do my homework at home" (clause juxtaposition) -> in Chinese "我每天骑自行车去上课在家里做作业"。"and" is perfectly fine in English, just as 并 in Chinese, whereas 和 would not be correct
    – blackgreen
    Aug 19 '20 at 15:47
  • Clause juxtaposition is different from connecting verbs. Connecting verbs can be coincidental due to connecting phrases. The point is indeed 并且 is used for clause juxtaposition -- though it may be less productive to consider English style clauses in Chinese. That's why you see a distinction between 并且 and 和. There is a distinction. At the same time, 和 is seen connecting verbs because it is used to connect phrases.
    – Argyll
    Aug 19 '20 at 15:51

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