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Is there a difference between these two patterns for saying "a little, a bit"?

"adj+一点儿" and "有点儿+adj"

For example, 晚一点儿,有点儿晚

Are they different?

Also, what's the difference between

a) 我会一点儿 and

b) 我有点儿会

Are they the same?

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  • Here's the passage from Common Confusable Words and Expressions for HSK and here and here are the pages from 《HSK汉语水平考试精选词汇辨析与练习》.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 12:18

4 Answers 4

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Difference between "adj+一点儿" and "有点儿+adj" pattern

These patterns do indeed have different meanings. A key thing to understand first is that you are talking about these patterns with adjectives. They have slightly different but related uses with other parts of speech. In the "有点儿+adj" pattern, the 有 can be considered part of the pattern and is not there for some other usage.

In all these patterns, the 儿 is a feature of northern speech and is not used by everyone. Similarly the 一 before 点 may or not be present according to individual usage without really affecting the meaning.

The "adj+一点儿" is essentially a comparative pattern used with a limited set of adjectives/adverbs to mean "a little bit (more)." It is also used with a limited set of intentions that include making a request or expressing a comparison against expectations. Examples are:

请说慢一点 Please speak (a little bit) slower.

我喜欢吃老一点儿的牛排 I like steak quite well-done.

把心放宽一点 Don't worry so much.

In this pattern, adding 一点 after the adjective has more the effect of reducing the force of the qualification or judgment than of introducing a true comparative. As you can see, there are multiple ways of expressing this in English that don't necessarily track the Chinese structure exactly.

The "有点儿+adj" pattern is used to express a complaint or negative judgment about something and is less restricted in usage. The presence of 一点 again reduces the force of the comment, but there is always an implication that the degree of the adjective exceeds the proper degree. Examples are:

这辆车有一点儿贵 "This car is a bit (too)/kind of expensive.

有一点儿模糊的概念 have a somewhat/kind of a hazy idea about something

我有一点儿累 I'm a bit/kind of tired (so want to rest).

Another way of thinking of this use is like adding "kind of/kinda" in colloquial English.

For example, 晚一点儿,有点儿晚

Are they different?

The phrase 晚一点儿 would be good in phrase saying something like "Come a little later, please" or maybe "It's a bit later than the other one." The phrase 有点儿晚 would be good in phrase saying something like "It's a little bit (too)/kind of late."

Also, what's the difference between

a) 我会一点儿 and

b) 我有点儿会

Are they the same?

No, they are not the same. The phrase 我会一点儿 is not an adjective usage but states in a positive sense that you have some ability. That is expressed as potentially sufficient in the context. The phrase 我有点儿会 is also not an adjective use but is more like saying "I can to some degree" or "I kind of can/am kind of able to" That phrase suggests the ability is inadequate in the context.

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Difference between "adj+一点儿" and "有点儿+adj" pattern

There are problems:

晚一点儿 (later) is not an adjective phrase but an adverb phrase. Example: 晚一点儿(adv)回家(v)

会(know) in 我会一点儿 (I know a little) and 我有点儿会 (I kind of know) is a verb

  • 快 = fast (adj)

  • 快点 = faster (adv) - e.g. 跑快点 (run faster)

  • 快一点儿 (adv) = a little bit faster (adv) - e.g. 跑快一点儿 (run a little bit faster)

  • 有点儿快 (adj) = is a little bit fast (adj) - e.g. 節奏有点儿快 (the rhythm is a little bit fast)

~

  • 慢 = slow (adj)

  • 慢点 = slower (adv) - e.g. 吃慢点 (eat slower)

  • 慢一点儿(adv) = a little bit slower (adv) - e.g. 吃慢一点儿 (eat a little bit slower)

  • 有点儿慢(adj) = is a little bit slow (adj) - e.g. 進度有点儿慢 (progress is a little bit slow)

Conclusion:

"adj + 一点儿" is an adverb phrase that modifies a verb to indicate a slightly higher degree

"有点儿 + adj" is an adjective phrase that describes a noun

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  • Is there another use? 我要小一点儿的。你有便宜一点儿的吗? These look like adjective phrases to me.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 11:46
  • the 的 cannot be omitted from your examples, and it makes them adjectival phrases. Examples: 我要小一点儿 = 我要(縮)小一点儿。; 你有便宜一点儿吗? = 你有(收)便宜一点儿吗?; 快一点儿 = a little faster; 快一点儿的 = the faster one
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 15:47
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The difference between the two phrases below is quite clear:

晚一点 - to be late for a while, and

有点晚 - it is a little late.

The difference between the sentences "我会一点" and "我有点会" is quite small, and it is better explained through an example:

  • 你會修車嗎? - Do you know how to fix cars?

  • 我会一点. - I know some/a little about fixing cars.

  • 我有点会. - I possess some ability/knowledge in fixing cars.

The only difference is the former answer sounds more certain about the task he can do, albeit only a small part, the latter lacks the certainty in quantizing the ability.

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Although both 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr) and 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) mean "a little", they tap into different concepts and are used differently.

The chief difference between the two is that: 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr) is used as a degree indicator; 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) is used for quantifying something.

In your example, 有点儿晚, a little late, a degree indicate, for example, not very late. 晚一点儿, to quantify how late it is going to be, a little.

I have an article about the usages of the two here: https://www.mslmaster.com/index.php/teaching-learning-resources/10-resources/115-the-difference-between-yi-dianr-and-you-yi-dianr-in-chinese

Hope it helps.

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