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While I was trying to read a Chinese novelette, I came across this sentence:

白色衬衫和褐色裤子,这是他唯一一套体面衣服,衬衫袖口磨了边,他把袖子卷到胳膊肘。

My initial guess was that 磨边 would mean something such as the edge of something, but it doesn't make sense in this sentence.

Can someone help me? I also don't understand why there is a 了 between 磨 and 边. Is 磨边 a separable word?

3 Answers 3

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磨 means worn, or damaged, which is used as a verb in this sentence, and 边 means the edges. When you put a "了" in the middle, The meaning of “磨了边” is 'The “边” has been “磨”', to describe that the shirt has been worn for a long time.

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磨了边: worn at the edges

白色衬衫和褐色裤子,
A white shirt and brown trousers,
这是他唯一一套体面衣服,
are his only presentable clothes,
衬衫袖口磨了边,
the cuffs worn at the edges,
他把袖子卷到胳膊肘。
he rolls the sleeves up to his elbows.

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  • What gives the meaning of wearing in the sentence? What is the function of 边 there? I don't quite understand this structure Mar 24, 2022 at 23:45
  • 边 = the edge (of the cuffs) propercloth.com/reference/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/…
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 25, 2022 at 3:43
  • @Vinícius do Carmo Melício I could have written "frayed" instead of "worn". Look it up!
    – Pedroski
    Mar 25, 2022 at 4:09
  • @ViníciusdoCarmoMelício please see Jack Chen's answer about where is the meaning of wearing from.
    – ALife
    Mar 25, 2022 at 5:41
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衬衫袖口磨了边 - The end of the cuff of his shirt is worn due to years of rubbing with the wrist and hard objects. This is a descriptive phrase that echos 他唯一一套体面衣服 (his only presentable shirt) to make the point - he is either quite poor or a money savor (節省/簡的人).

"了" indicates the action (磨) on the object (袖口) is completed in the time past.

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