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  1. What is the difference between “悲傷” and “傷悲”? Because I saw it on the dictionary, they both have the same meaning which is "sad".

  2. Is there a special context in Chinese grammar where we need to use “悲傷” or “傷悲” ?

3 Answers 3

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悲傷 and 傷悲 mean exactly the same.

Changing the order of a compound word that the two characters have a similar meaning is a common practice in the classical speaking style.

Why do so?

  1. Make the speech sounds more classical.

  2. It shows the speaker has a deep understanding of the word

You have to know the rule to bend the rule. Not all compound word's orders are reversible.

Example:

擊(hit) = 打(hit)

擊打 = 打擊 (hit)

~

待(wait) = 等(wait)

待等 = 等待 (wait)

~

傷(sad) = 悲(sad)

傷悲 = 悲傷 (sad)

Example sentences:

以槌頭打擊鐵釘 (more colloquial) = 以槌頭擊打鐵釘 (more literary)

等待春天歸來 (more colloquial) = 待等春歸 (classical; literary)

到年老之時只剩下悲傷 (colloquial) = 老大徒傷悲 (classical; literary)

My advice is: Make sure the compound word is reversible before you reverse the order of the two characters.

For example, the order of 明白 (understand) is quite rigid. Although both 明 and 白 contain the meaning of 'clear', 明白 cannot become 白明, because the main meaning of 白 is 'white' and 'wasted', and the main meaning of 明 is 'bright'. 白明 sounds more like 'white and bright' than 'understand'

Reversible compound words are mostly verbs or adjectives. Nouns are rarely reversible. e.g. 車房 and 房車 have completely different meanings

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  • so “悲傷” is more commonly used in spoken Chinese than “傷悲” ?
    – reinardhz
    Jun 15, 2022 at 19:04
  • Agree that 悲傷 = 傷悲, which is mostly seen in poem writing. However, be aware that 打擊 may not be replaced by 擊打 - 這是一個相當的打擊. I've not heard of 待等, it seems only in poems that are required by 壓韻, so the words are flipped.
    – r13
    Jun 15, 2022 at 19:05
  • 擊打 can replace 打擊 only when they are used as verbs. A good example of 'know the rule before you can bend the rule' 打擊鐵釘 --> 擊打鐵釘 is ok. 一個沈重的打擊 --> 一個沈重的擊打 is not ok.
    – Tang Ho
    Jun 15, 2022 at 19:06
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As a Chinese native speaker,we never say 伤悲 in our daily life.伤悲 is always appearing in poems or songs.It also never shows in any kind of articles.

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  • Quote:- "...we never say 伤悲 in our daily life..." In fact even 悲伤 is also seldom used. If you use either of these in daily, casual conversations, people might think you are a Time Traveler from the Song Dynasty, or a latter-day wannabe classical poet. The term commonly used in daily casual conversation is 伤心. Jun 17, 2022 at 2:26
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The difference between 悲傷 and 傷悲 is shown in the example sentences below.

悲傷 = sad (adj)

  • 那是一個悲傷的故事 - It is a sad story.

  • 她感到無助的悲傷 - She feels hopelessly sad.

悲傷,傷悲 = sadness (noun)

  • 悲傷/傷悲(rare)無補於事 - Sadness is useless in resolving matters.

  • 無限的悲傷/傷悲(rare) - Endless sadness.

  • 少壮不努力,老大徒傷悲/悲傷(informal) - Lack of putting up great effort while young, one would be left with regret/sadness in his old age.

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