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I read an explanation on Chinese Grammar Wiki of the function of 好 before verbs to indicate that something is easy or good to do.

Examples: 好吃、好喝、好听

In these phrases, however:

你好厉害!

我好无聊。

I am confused about the function of 好,is it working in a similar way to the "easy/good to (verb) structure? What exactly is the purpose of including 好?

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So, I dug out my Modern Chinese Practical Grammar Analysis 現代漢語適用語法分析(下冊) and it turns out that those expressions do not exist.

Under the section on "adverbs expressing degree", it lists 比較,相當,很,十分,非常,極爲,極其,最,...極了 ,太...了, 可... 了, 挺...的,真...啊,怪...的, 夠...的,特別,尤其,更,還,... but not 好...or 蠻 (simp: 蛮)

Except of course, that 好 very much exists, and is just another (colloquial) way of expressing degree in Chinese, just like 挺, which could be considered its northern dialect equivalent. The same answers apply here as in this question. Wherever you can use 很 you can technically use 好. This also means that sometimes it doesn't need to be translated in English:

你好厲害啊!/你好厉害啊! You are (so) amazing!

這道題好難哦!/这道题好难哦!This question was pretty hard!

得到批准好不容易啊 I (really) struggled to get approval. (this one has special constructions with 才, as you can see here

Note that the full expression is often "好 (something of which there is "a lot of") 啊/哦/呀" as in the examples above, which further indicates a more colloquial/intimate nature. In the two sentences below, I'd always pick 很 for the first one and 好 for the second one.

我很喜歡在中國旅游/我很喜欢在中国旅游。I very much enjoy travelling in China

我好喜歡你啊! /我好喜欢你啊! I really like you

To wrap up, 好 seems to be just how southern Chinese languages/dialects, e.g. Cantonese, say 很. Chinese "dialects" are always felt as more intimate and less formal than the standard language. Teaching materials may avoid (southern) dialectal terms at all costs even while including stuff like "極了/极了“ which you won't see outside of some subtitle translation.

But most southerners speaking Mandarin casually (not even 塑料普通话)will say something like 好好吃啊! (or 蠻好吃的!) rather than 很好吃! Even northern Chinese have adopted 好 precisely for that informal or perhaps southern/soft/可愛 feel and will exclaim things like 我好餓啊!, even if they tend to use 很/挺 a lot more.

So feel free to use 好、很 、挺 as you see fit!

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  1. before a verb indicate 'make easy'

Example:

月黑好殺人,風高好放火 (makes it easy to murder when the night is dark, makes it easy to set fire when the wind is strong)

刀利才好切菜 (makes cutting vegetables easy when the knife is sharp)

~

  1. before an adjective = 'very'(adv)

Example:

好有趣 = 很有趣 = very interesting

好无聊 = 很无聊 = very boring

~

  1. as the first part of a compound word adjective (adverb + verb) indicates 'good'

好吃 (good + eat = good to eat = delicous)

好喝 (good + drink = good to drink = tasty)

好听 (good + listen = good to listen = beautiful (voice; music; talk)

~

  1. before a noun indicates 'like' (verb)

Example:

好色 = (like women = lustful)

好武 = (like martial art = like practicing martial art)

好酒 = (like alcohol = like to drink alcohol)

The difference between 好吃 and 月黑好殺人 (both with 好 followed by a verb):

  • 好吃 is 'adjective'. e.g. 这蛋糕真好吃 - this cake is delicious

  • 好殺人 in 月黑好殺人 is 'make easy + verb'

  • 好殺 (like killing) without other context is an adjective 'murderous'

  • '好吃' in '我口大才好吃掉你' (my big mouth makes eating you easy) is 'make easy + verb', not the adjective 好吃

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The meaning of 好 when followed by an adjective, as in your examples of 好厉害 or 好无聊, is something similar to "so" or "very", and is there for emphasis. So 你好厉害啊! would mean "wow, you're so good!" and 我好无聊 simply means "I'm so bored". Interestingly, Chinese doesn't really allow for expressions such as 你厉害 ("You're good [at something]") or 我无聊 ("I'm bored") save for some special exceptions, unlike English, so the 好 is needed for it to sound natural.

Incidentally, this can lead to expressions like 好好吃 where 好吃 means delicious and is an adjective, while the first 好 is the modifier that precedes an adjective.

(Disclaimer: this answer is from the perspective of a native speaker who's not familiar with linguistics per se. This is just the way I think about the phrases.)

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What exactly is the purpose of including 好?

Emphasis I would say.

你好厉害!
You are (so) amazing!

我好无聊。
I'm bored stiff.

好:很、甚:very, extremely

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  • Interesting. Are there any rules governing when it's okay to use 好 for emphasis? Could I say 我好累,他好忙,我们好热 Jan 25 at 0:01
  • Just like "I am pretty tired", there are no "rules" that I am goddam sure of. Just conventional usage and a sprinkling of poetic license. Jan 25 at 5:08
  • 1
    @MuchAppreciated25 Yes, all those are valid expressions.
    – YiFan
    Jan 25 at 10:21
  • 1
    Rules? 你好厉害!你太厉害!I think it corresponds with English 'right' in this usage: right cold, right odd, 好冷、好奇怪
    – Pedroski
    Jan 25 at 22:47
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in short

first 好 can be a 'good' thing, it means the thing is nice when followed by a verb.

second 好 means very, really if followed by an adj.

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As a native speaker, I am also confused with this phenomenon. For examble, if I want to say "You are smart". Because "You"="你", "are"="是", "smart"="聪明的", I would say "你是聪明的". However, this sentence is rarely spoken in China. People will say "你好聪明" instead of "你是聪明的". And the word "好" means "very", so "你好聪明" means "You are very smart." I am really confused because I think there exists some unlucky guy who is smart but not really very smart. Those guys can never hear anyboy praise them. How sad! In a short word, it's just a sentence pattern when Chinese people want to express "Who be adj". They will say "Who 好 adj". Sometimes, people will say "Who 真 adj" instead. Yeah, the word "好" here means emphasizing. But it's also necessary to make up the sentence. Without it, "你聪明" will seem strange for native speakers.

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  • You brought up a good point here. “他是聪明的” sounds like a categorical or official statement. In Chinese, an adjective of intensity can be used in a predicative construction without 是. However, it must be initialized and assigned a value (either positive or negative, but cannot be null value). Adverbs like 很,好,挺,有点,一点 ... etc. serve to assign a value rather positive, while 不 assigns a negative value (他不聪明). If the context has a comparative connotation, it can also serve to assign a positive value. For example: 他又聪明又可爱,她瘦了(She is slimmer than before).
    – KK_Tse
    Mar 13 at 10:53
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你好坏哦,我好喜欢

You are SO bad (bad for bad boy) (flirty way), I VERY like it.

See this example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpZxr_yMG6E @ 1:57

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According to dictionaries, 好 can be an adverb:

 表示程度深(多含感叹语气) e.g. 好大的广场 / 好漂亮!

.强调数量多

e.g. 来了好多人 / 喝了好些水。

.强调时间久

e.g. 等了好久 / 去了好几年。

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好 in these contexts means 'very'

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