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What is the difference between 还是 and 还? Is 还 the short of 还是 and, consequently, they are interchangeable in every situation, only in some cases or never?


For reference, I will list the different situations I have seen them. Can any be expressed both with 还 and 还是?

还:

  • means still / despite the situation in a negative sentenceSubj + 还 + 不 / 没 + [Verb Phrase]. E.g.:

    我解释了这么多遍,你不懂 ?

    Wǒ jiěshì le zhème duō biàn, nǐ hái bù dǒng?

    I've explained it so many times, and you still don't get it?

  • means also: Subj + Verb, 还 + Verb. E.g.:

    她有一个弟弟,有一个妹妹.

    Tā yǒu yī gè dìdi, hái yǒu yī gè mèimei.

    She has a younger brother and also has a younger sister.

  • means again: 还 + Verb. E.g.:

    这个电影很好,我看过,想看.

    Zhège diànyǐng hěn hǎo, wǒ kànguò, hái xiǎng kàn.

    This movie is very good, I watched it before and want to watch it again.

  • means pretty/fairly: Subj + 还 + Adj. E.g.:

    好。

    hái hǎo.

    I'm pretty/fairly good.

  • expresses a strong tone of surprise: Subj + 还 + Predicate + 呢 . E.g.:

    留过学呢,英语这么差 。

    Hái liúguò xué ne, Yīngyǔ zhème chà.

    You have studied abroad, yet your English is so bad.

  • marks a rhetorical question: Subj + 还 + [Verb Phrase] + 吗 ? . E.g.:

    他说的话,你听吗?

    Tā shuō dehuà, nǐ hái tīng ma?

    Did you listen to what he said?

  • means even more: Noun 1 + 比 + Noun 2 + 更 / 还 + Adj. E.g.:

    他比姚明高 。

    Tā bǐ Yáo Míng hái gāo.

    He is even taller than Yao Ming.

还是:

  • means still / despite the situation in an affirmative sentence: ⋯⋯ ,(但是 / 可是 +) Subj + 还是 + [Verb Phrase] . E.g.:

    父母不同意他去,可是他还是去了。

    Fùmǔ bù tóngyì tā qù, kěshì tā háishì qù le.

    His parents didn't agree to it, but he still went.

  • provides choices in a question: Option A + 还是 + Option B ? . E.g.:

    你喝茶还是喝咖啡 ?

    Nǐ hē chá háishì hē kāfēi?

    Do you drink tea or coffee?

  • means had better: Subj + 还是 + [Verb Phrase] + 吧 . E.g.:

    还是快点走吧 。

    háishì kuài diǎn zǒu ba.

    You'd better leave now.

  • 1
    They are roughly interchangeable when they have roughly the same meaning, which you already listed. Is that surprising? By the way, you can probably simplify the meanings of 还 into still and even. The other distinctions aren't really standalone cases – blackgreen Aug 30 at 21:55
  • No, they are rather different, though in some cases they are pretty close in meaning. The definitions you got are a prove. – dan Aug 30 at 23:44
2

OP already listed their different definitions. They don't seem to be interchangeable at all.

The meaning of 'still' may be the only one where either word-choices can be used in the same sentence, but there's still some subtle differences between them:

  • Fact 1 + 还 + Fact 2 describes the facts without emphasizing any.
  • Fact 1 + 还是 + Fact 2 emphasizes the seriousness of Fact 1: despite Fact 1, Fact 2 still occurs .

Examples:

  1. 水浸眼眉了他还不逃命.

    His eyebrows are flooded and he won't run away.

    Describes a situation without emphasizing any part: Fact 1. 水浸眼眉了 and Fact 2. 他还不逃命.

    水浸眼眉了他还是不逃命.

    His eyebrows are flooded, he still won't run for his life.

    Emphasizes the seriousness of 水浸眼眉: despite 水浸眼眉了, 他还是不逃命.

  2. 天黑了还不回家.

    Not going home when it gets dark.

    Describes a situation without emphasizing any part: Fact 1. 天黑了 and Fact 2. 还不回家.

    天黑了还是不回家.

    Still not going home after dark.

    Emphasizes the importance of 天黑了: despite 天黑了, he still 不回家.

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  • 1
    I rewrote a bit your answer for clarity, but feel free to change it furthermore or roll back to your previous version. I'd suggest for being more beginner-friendly, you consider adding English translations to examples, as well as to use simplified characters when the OP uses simplified characters (I didn't realize at the beginning 還 = 还). – Puco4 Aug 30 at 15:41
  • But what about 你还是不同意吗?vs 你不同意吗?- Do you still disagree?. Is there some difference? – Puco4 Aug 30 at 15:51
  • 1
    你还是不同意吗 stress the 'previous statement' -- (imply-- What I said couldn't be more convincing) – Tang Ho Aug 30 at 15:56
2

I try to distinct between 你还是不同意吗 and 你还不同意吗.

你还不同意吗 implies (given something aforementioned), you still disagree?

你还是不同意吗 implies (given something aforementioned), your attitude/stance is still no/disagree?

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'still' is already a difficult word.

still: Old English stille "motionless, stable, fixed, stationary,"

You know that old Xmas hymn: Stille Nacht (Silent Night) (Joseph Mohr, music Franz Mohr.)

"Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, alles schläft, einsam wacht."

still: "even now, even then, yet" (still standing, still waiting),

还huán:回到原处或恢复原状:还乡。还俗。衣锦还乡。返老还童。

还hái:依然,仍然:这本书~没有看完。

Grammar in general, has never addressed, will not answer, the question, "Why is that not acceptable?" People will just tell you, "Doesn't sound right, we don't say it like that." So you are in pursuit of inexplicable answers. Linguists have a favourite phrase, 'non-felicitous', meaning 'It sounds wrong, but don't ask us why it's wrong!'

A quick survey gave this result for your example sentences.

1. 我解释了这么多遍,你还不懂?OK to use 还是 here.
2. 她有一个弟弟,还有一个妹妹. NO ‘还有’是一词。
3. 这个电影很好,我看过,还想看. OK to use 还是 here.
4. 我还好。NO 我还是不好。X 你饿不饿?我还好。 OK 我还是不饿。 OK 
5. 还留过学呢,英语这么差。NO can't use 还是 还是留过学的呢。OK
6. 他说的话,你还听吗?OK can use 还是 here.
7. 他比姚明还高。NO can't use 还是 还 here means than 还要高 OK
8. 父母不同意他去,可是他还是去了。NO can't use 还
9. 你喝茶还是喝咖啡?OK can use just 还
10. 你还是快点走吧。NO can't just use 还 here.

Maybe, 还 + verb can be changed more easily to 还是。

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  • Could you mention too whether the changes in the examples between 还是 and 还 introduce different meanings? – Puco4 Aug 31 at 8:33
  • No difference in meaning, according to my sources. – Pedroski Aug 31 at 23:58

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