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According to the dictionary, 兮兮 means:

词的后缀。用在某些词后,表示一种情态。 脏兮兮 | 可怜兮兮 | 神经兮兮

I'm not sure what this has over just using the word (how can 情态 express adjectives to express a state, not people?). Does 兮兮 just exaggerate the adjective, such as 很脏 or 非常脏? Or otherwise, what is the difference from just using 脏 or 可怜?

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  • 兮 is a modal particle in ancient Chinese, just like 啊 today, so it has no actual meaning. It is used to strengthen the tone. The adjective before is often not positive.
    – T-Pioneer
    Commented May 15, 2022 at 7:37

3 Answers 3

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兮兮 can be used as an emphatic particle after adjectives(normally negative ones) to denote sympathy or contempt. Some examples: 惨兮兮 穷兮兮 累兮兮 As a native Chinese, I do not use 兮兮 often.

Hope this can help.

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    "惨兮兮 穷兮兮 累兮兮" don't sound right. The OP's examples (脏兮兮 | 可怜兮兮 | 神经兮兮) are used quite often in daily life.
    – dan
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 3:03
  • Hi, I tried with pinyin input software 搜狗, the most popular one in China. And 惨兮兮、穷兮兮、穷兮兮 are right there. We do not use them a lot, but it does not mean they do not exist. Commented May 11, 2022 at 9:18
  • @dan In the South West at least, 惨兮兮 is indeed used very often. In fact, we tend to use words with 兮兮 more often than people from other areas.
    – lilysirius
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 20:32
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Yes, you are right on. The explanation of "兮兮" - Suffix of a word, used at the end of a word denoting (emphasizing or exaggerating) a condition or state.

( ) - enclosing my word.

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I don't think the main function of 兮兮 is emphasizing or intensifying.

Compare (他有点神经 < 他很神经) vs 他神经兮兮的, it's hard to locate 他神经兮兮的. Mostly, it's stronger that 他有点神经, but it can be more or the same degree. But surely, 神经兮兮的 is the most vivid (最生动形象) and least stiff (最不生硬).

I don't understand why but we tend to associate images with 兮兮. For example, when hearing 神经兮兮, a person who speak or behave that way immediately comes into my mind. The same goes with 脏兮兮, 可怜兮兮 and all the other. That's why it expresses 表示一种情态. It modifies the adjective.

It's unnatural to adjectivally use 脏 or 可怜 or 神经, etc. on their own. For example, 衣服脏,这条狗可怜,他神经 all sounds awkward (probably because this usage confuses with intransitive verbs). We usually add some adverbs of degree, like 衣服很脏,这条狗好可怜啊,他有点神经。Or we add 兮兮, as in 衣服脏兮兮的,这条狗可怜兮兮的,他神经兮兮的. Or in some cases where the adjective indeed has intransitive verb usage, we add 了, like 衣服脏了.

More with 可怜兮兮: because we see that in our mind, it brings out more empathy (惹人怜爱).

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