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Can somebody break down 喜欢 for me?

喜 alone is defined as a verb, "to be fond of",so I imagine that this is the sense of the the word that is used in the compound 喜欢, which means the same thing.

欢 is defined as an adjective, which of course is a kind of verb in Chinese, "to be jolly, to be merry".

So can I think of 欢 as a resultative complement of 喜?To be fond of something resulting in one's own jolliness/merriment?


I know that 喜欢 is a word, not a phrase. I am looking for the original phrase that gave rise to the word, ie a morphological analysis of the word.

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In short, it's not. 欢 and 喜 are synonymous adjectives that are juxtaposed to form a verb.

  1. At the beginning, they were two synonyms that are often used together.

  2. Then it becomes a habit. 欢喜 and 喜欢 were used interchangeably, with the meaning happy, joyful.

As a word, both 欢喜 and 喜欢 are first documented in Han Dynasty.

伐纣时士卒欢喜,奋迅急速,以尚威势,猛而不倾侧也。 (西汉)《史记》

知其安危问养,视其复闻小善言,心为之喜欢,是孝之所致也。(东汉)《太平经》

欢喜 is, however, more frequently used, especially in the translation of Buddhist scriptures.

  1. Mostly, 欢喜 retains the meaning of happy, but in some examples, standing alone, it's difficult to determine whether it's "happy" or "to like", such as

便行则人人欢喜,不动则个个生嫌。(宋)《五灯会元》

In (明)《拍案惊奇》, the meanings are both associated with 喜欢.

满生心里喜欢道:“谁想绝处逢生,遇着这等好人。” happy

小人喜欢他妻子。 like

It's clear if an object is followed, since an adjective cannot have an object. It has to be a verb, meaning to like.

If there's no explict object, it's sometimes hard to decide:

我见他是路歧人,不喜欢。

From this, a logical development of the semantics of 喜欢 could be as follows: as a compound adjective 喜欢 first extends from happy to liking, then it changes part of speech to include the transitive verb to like. In many dialects and also the common tongue, 喜欢 has lost the meaning of happy, while 欢喜 only retains that meaning.

Notably in Wu Chinese, 喜欢 and 欢喜 still have the same meaning, with 喜欢 being formal and not usually used colloquially.

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喜 is a verb - "to be fond of", "to like", or "to enjoy"

欢 is an adjective indicating "a state of mind" - "joyous", "pleased", or "happy".

喜 is a verb but can't be used alone, it needs a supplement. Combined with 欢, it becomes a compound "verb" that means "like", as in "I like!", or a "transitive verb", as in "I like it!", and "I am fond of (something - an object)".

So - "can I think of 欢 as a resultative complement of 喜"? "YES, it is a case of "result complement".

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  • This doesn't answer my question -- it simply restates the information that I already provided.
    – Buddy L
    Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 21:35

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