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  1. 挑战 我 第一次 这么高难度的 手术

A HSK5 past exam question is given above; the task is to reorganize the sentence fragments into a grammatical sentence. My (incorrect) answer was:

第一次这么高难度的手术挑战我。

I was hoping this meant something like "my first so-high-difficulty surgery challenges me". I only chose this because the only possible verb I see listed is 挑战:

CC-CEDICT: 挑战 (tiǎo​zhàn​) to challenge / challenge

However, there are two given answers:

我第一次挑战这么高难度的手术。
这么高难度的手术我第一次挑战。
Official Examination Papers of HSK (Level 5) (photo)

It looks (to me) like there are no verbs in these examples, since 挑战 is being used as a noun. It seems like there is an omitted 是 or something.

Question: How are the sentences 我第一次挑战这么高难度的手术 and 这么高难度的手术我第一次挑战 grammatical? Where are the verbs?

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In both of the answers, 挑战 can be seen as the verb.

For this sentence:

我第一次挑战这么高难度的手术。

...the skeleton of this sentence is 我(subject) 挑战(verb) 手术(object)

For this one:

这么高难度的手术我第一次挑战。

... the skeleton is the same, but in an inverted order: 手术 我 挑战.

Inverted sentence is a common sentence structure in Chinese, and it's mainly used to emphasize the object, in this case "the surgery", which is super challenging.

An example that you might have seen is:

我第一次吃这么好吃的拉面
这么好吃的拉面我第一次吃
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since 挑战 is being used as a noun

No, sorry, it's used as a verb.

第一次挑战

In English we would say:
"face (as if in a duel or combat) for the first time".

A vital rule we must always abide to (at least at your level of knowledge, preparing for HSK5) is to use a Chinese monolingual dictionary for the correct meaning/s. Bilingual dictionaries are often misleading. And, it's important, words are used differently in different languages.

挑战
1。(动)故意激怒敌人,使敌人出来打仗。
2。(动)鼓动对方跟自己竞赛。
3。(动)激励自己主动跟困难等做斗争
4。(名)指需要应付、处理的局面或难题

In our sentence the meaning of 挑战 is n.3, that is you impel yourself to face (as in a fight) such a difficult surgery.

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  • this should be the accepted answer
    – blackgreen
    Jul 12 at 13:32
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since 挑战 is being used as a noun

You are thinking of 第一次挑战 as "My first challenge", but 挑战 is still a verb in the following sentences

  • [SVO sentence] 我第一次(First time I) 挑战 (challenge) 这么高难度的手术。 (such a difficult operation)

  • [Topic + comment sentence] 这么高难度的手术 (such a difficult operation) 我第一次挑战。 (I challenge it for the first time)

次 can be a verb-classifier to indicate the occurrence of a verb

Example:

我第一次游泳 doesn't mean "My first swim". It means "The first time I swim"

我第二次游泳 = the second time I swim

我上次游泳 = the last time I swimed

Notice:

我的第一次游泳 would mean "my first swim"

我的第一次挑战 would mean "my first challenge"

The 的 marks 游泳 and 挑战 as nouns in the sentences above

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  • Perhaps 挑战 means "to take on the challenge" here (?).
    – Becky 李蓓
    Jul 11 at 9:05
  • @Becky 李蓓 "take on the challenge" is still a verb phrase. If the sentence was 我(的)第一次挑战, then it would mean "my first challenge" -- the 的 marks 挑战 as a noun
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 11 at 9:08
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I think you aren't aware of the difference between 挑战 and 'challenge'.

In Chinese, the subject for the verb 挑战 is a person. E. g. 我挑战高难度。It means I proactively(gather all my energy) deal with the challenge of high difficulty. It connotes that I will fight against it. It denotes one's bravery to achieve something difficult.

This use is quite different between English word 'challenge' and Chinese word 挑战, though they mean the same semantically.

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  • Do you find the Chinese completely acceptable? My friends said it's fine. In English I would never use 'challenge' like this. "(This is) the first time I attempt such a difficult operation. " But I don't find any translation of 挑战 as "attempt".
    – Pedroski
    Jul 12 at 2:28
  • @Pedroski "Challenge" is just one meaning of the Chinese word 挑战. It can be translated as "challenge" in other contexts, not here. Jul 12 at 12:37
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  1. 我第一次挑战这么高难度的手术。
  • This is the first time I challenge a surgery with such high difficulty.
  1. 这么高难度的手术我第一次挑战。
  • Such a highly difficult surgery I first time to challenge.

You can see the second answer was not a good sentence, it could be made acceptable by saying:

  • 这么高难度的手术"是"我第一次"的"挑战。

  • Such a highly difficult surgery is my first-time challenge.

The verbs are the words in the sentences with boldface.

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