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Recently, I have been made aware of the following sentences:

这太棒了! 这是太棒了! 这真是太棒了!

A native Chinese friend told me that the middle one is incorrect, but that seems very odd to me, because 是 is the “be verb,” and it seems like that it’s ignored in the first sentence(which mean we should be able to add it back). However, my Chinese friend told me that no one in real life would use the second sentence, whereas the first and the third are commonly used. Is this a grammatical issue or simply some sort of speech convention?

Similar things happen with 的. 的 should be able to be appended after adjectives, but according to my Chinese friend, the second sentence is wrong:

一把美丽的椅子。 一把红的椅子。

Rather, he suggested I should use 一把红色的椅子 or 一把红椅子 This is particularly strange since we can say things like 那把椅子是红的(this sounds natural) but not 那把椅子是漂亮的(this sounds unnatural)

Are these truly grammatical points that’s I don’t understand or simply conventions of the Chinese language?

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  • Could you ask the two questions separately? Questions on syntax are especially difficult to tackle. For the 红 part, perhaps this answer helps: chinese.stackexchange.com/a/43686/27428. – L Parker Jun 6 at 14:15
  • Also it's better to look at 是 as the copula instead. Chinese sentences do not always require a copula (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copula_(linguistics)#Chinese). – L Parker Jun 6 at 14:18
  • Unfortunately that question deals with the usage of 很, not 的 – David X Jun 6 at 14:18
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    I couldn't explain but agree with your Chinese friend. – r13 Jun 7 at 21:35
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As a native user, I'll try my best to explain these questions.

Question 1

「这太棒了!」/「这是太棒了!」/「这真是太棒了!」

Here should be a special grammar point in Chinese. On building a sentence to describe a none, especially to show surprise, we make something like [n + adj]. Mostly, it is unnecessary to insert a BE verb.

In the 1st and 3rd sentences, the structures are like this:

这太棒了!

=> 这 + 太棒 + 了

=> noun + adj + x

这真是太棒了!

=> 这 + 真是 + 太棒 + 了

=> noun + adv + adj + x

However, the 2nd one's looks like this:

这是太棒了!

=> 这 + 是 + 太棒 + 了

=> noun + beV + adj + x

Adding a be verb in a Chinese sentence is like raising the pitch of a BE verb in English. For example:

A: Give them your phone number, and you can get 2 trillion dollars? Don't you think it is too fantastic?

B: It is too fantastic.

... is the same as ...

A: 给他们你的手机号,你就能得到 2 亿? 你不觉得这太美好了吗?

B: 这 太美好了。


Question 2

「一把美丽的椅子。」/「一把红的椅子。」

Here may comes no grammar point, just a -few- lot of rules of usage.

When we don't use 的

  1. A suffix exists. Such as ……式、……风、……味、……用 (for adj)、 ……化 (for verb)

法式料理、英式甜点、复古风打扮、工业风设计、蒜味土司、食用金粉、自动化工厂 2. The adj is too short. Such as 酸、甜、苦、辣、咸 (flavours)、煎、煮、炒、炸、炖、卤 (ways to cook)、大、小、高、低 (level or scale)... 酸葡萄、烂番茄、小蛋糕、炸鸡翅、卤排骨、苦巧克力 3. The adj is a noun 起司汉堡、鲔鱼三明治、火腿蛋、芝麻蛋卷、天空蓝 4. The adj is widely used 精制糕点、疯狂科学家 5. We are using it as a term. 草莓风味蛋糕、细胞核、有性生殖、泻殖孔交配 6. A 之 or 的 has been there. 第四代的在日韩国人 ...and so many more

When we use 的

  1. The adj is so long

渣男一般的行为、四处撒野的小兔崽子、中华民国人民的自尊心、裤子口袋的破洞 2. An adv exists before the adj. Such a 很、超、超级、世界无敌…… 超酸的葡萄、超级苦的巧克力、很大的蛋糕 ...and so many more

When we use 之 instead of 的

  1. On a formal document. But no too much, or the articles may look boring and unnatural.
  2. Showing off our literary attainments. That is, to make the word/article looks more poetry.

Basically, there are so many different conditions and situations. Even the rules above, which I tried hard to sort out, don't work everywhere. Talk more with your Chinese friend will be great for you to understand these.

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Seriously speaking, there is nothing wrong with either 这太棒了!, 这是太棒了! or 这真是太棒了! If we consider the three sentences/phrases below, the middle one seems incomplete as one would wonder "what is too good?", while the other two are simply arbitrary exclamations without the need to address "what is (是). However, this argument is weak, so your friend's comment is a suggestion of the usual/custom way of speaking rather than correction on grammatical mistakes.

太棒了! 是太棒了! 真是太棒了!

On the second pair, I'll suggest changing 一把"美丽"的椅子 to 一把"漂亮"的椅子, as the latter is more appropriate for praising a liveliness item. Again, there is no grammatical mistake, but note the difference in describing a person, or something, that looks good, is "beautiful" or "pretty".

Beware of the sentence "那把椅子是漂亮的" can be considered correct in the conversation involving "comparison and indicative",

Friend's comment: 這些椅子都不好看 Your answer: 喏, 那把椅子(就)是漂亮的. The addition of 就 is preferred (makes the sentence more complete) but can be ignored.

As 一把红的椅子 = 一把红色的椅子 = 一把红椅子, I've no comment.

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