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I made a formulation along the lines of "他向你害怕着" and was told that 向 cant be used with 害怕 in this way. I felt that I was correct in this usage and tried to find instances on the internet that would validate me here, of which I didn't find any. But I did find this: enter image description here A novel titled "将军对他害怕". So seemingly 对 can be used with 害怕 while 向 cannot. I was under the impression that they both could mean 'towards' in the same capacity but apparently there are cases where one can be used but the other cannot. Hoping someone can elaborate

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Both cannot be used in this way. As a native speaker, it reads wrong to me and is obscure who's afraid of whom. That novel website is not a good source.

害怕 can be an adjective or a verb. As a verb, it can either be followed by an object or not. As an adjective, no object is used with it.

The most common way is 他(害)怕(着)你 (he's afraid of you). Another two ways to express the same meaning can be 你让他(感到)害怕 and 你使他(感到)害怕, with the former being more colloquial.

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As the other answer said, 害怕 can't be used the way you put it. It's usually used as a transitive verb. E.g. 我害怕他,他害怕你,etc. Or 使 xxx (感到)害怕.

向 or 对 is used with intransitive verbs such as 说, 笑, 哭, etc. E.g. 他对我笑.

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  • Are you sure that 向 and 对 can only be used with intransitive verbs? How about: 我对他说几句话?
    – Buddy L
    Mar 7, 2022 at 16:21
  • @BuddyL Maybe, my wording is not good, but I didn't say it's ONLY used with intransitive verbs. Of course, they can work with transitive verbs as well.
    – dan
    Mar 7, 2022 at 20:17
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You can't trust everything you see, read or hear. Many people here take a sentence from whatever they see on the net, in a book, or from some other sources and ask for help in explaining it. I always think that they should always ask "is that sentence acceptable?" before asking for help explaining it. If the sentence is not acceptable, there is no point to explain it. Back to your post, both sentences are not acceptable.

"将军对他害怕" should be 將軍怕他。
"他向你害怕着" simply doesn't make sense. Maybe 他怕你?

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    "If the sentence is not acceptable, there is no point to explain it" If an OP knows a sentence is not acceptable, that person would not have asked it in the first place. That person asked precisely because he / she doesn't know, (or at least not sure), it is not acceptable. I understand where you're coming from, but a large measure of empathy is needed as most OPs have not had years or decades of study in the language as some contributors here. It is the raison d'être of this Forum. Oct 5, 2021 at 13:41
  • @Wayne "That person asked precisely because he / she doesn't know, (or at least not sure), it is not acceptable." So, why doesn't the person ask whether the sentence is acceptable? Your argument doesn't explain why. If the person doesn't know, he/she can ask, right? I understand many students to a new language would take everything they read for granted. However, logically, shouldn't the first step be asking whether the sentence is acceptable?
    – joehua
    Oct 6, 2021 at 1:48
  • The OP asked:- "I was under the impression that they both could mean 'towards' in the same capacity but apparently there are cases where one can be used but the other cannot. Hoping someone can elaborate" I suppose OP must use the word "acceptable", otherwise it is not a "logical" question. Perhaps OPs everywhere better take note. Oct 6, 2021 at 2:21

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