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I am understanding 太……了 to mean "really/very/too/excessively"

I don't get the sense 了 is either a completed-action or a sentence-end change-of-state - would this be right to assume? If yes/no, how/why?

To follow on, why then sometimes is 了 not required?

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  • Similar to your other question, 了 can be omitted without changing the meaning but the tune of speech.
    – r13
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 12:31

2 Answers 2

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了 can act as a final particle that:

  1. indicates a sentence is 'completed'

  2. acts as a modal word (express different emotions depend on the tone of speech)

Example:

这人太蠢 doesn't sound like the sentence is completed, we would expect a follow-up like 这人太蠢,怎么学也学不会 or 这人太蠢,竟然不知我在讽刺他

了 in 这人太蠢了 can:

  1. indicates it is a complete sentence: all you want to say is 'he is very foolish' e.g. 怎么学也学不会,这人太蠢了

  2. acts as a modal word: e.g. it displeases you (with a blunt tone); it surprises you (with a high tone); it disappoints you (with a low tone)

了 in '这人太蠢了,怎么学也学不会' doesn't indicate the sentence has ended, only serves as a modal word, which can be omitted

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    Those are helpful examples. However, I think the OP wants to know why 这人太蠢 feels incomplete when other similar constructions, like 这人很蠢, are fine on their own. What do you feel 太 lacks that 很/超/非常/etc have?
    – Sanchuan
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 16:47
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    Similarly, we know that 这人蠢 also feels incomplete and would also require a follow-up sentence to feel complete. Would you say that 这人蠢 and 这人太蠢 feel incomplete in the same way or to the same extent? If not, why not (apart from the difference in meaning)?
    – Sanchuan
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 16:54
  • 太...了(modal/ final particle) is different from 很...了(change of situation/ complete - e.g. 很大 = very big; (已經)很大了= big enough
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 17:17
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    Thanks for that, but like the OP I just wanted to focus on the function of 了 specifically with 太. I thought we could find that out by comparing 太 to other similar adverbs that do NOT need 了. That is: if both 很 and 太 are adverbs, why is 很+Adj complete on its own whereas 太+Adj needs either 了 or a follow-up sentence?
    – Sanchuan
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 21:38
  • Great follow-ups, yes please, these are exactly what I would like to know as well? A really helpful answer, but as they say, how am I meant to know when a sentence feels complete/了 is acting to convey mood not one of its more defined functions? And by this logic, can I just go around adding it to sentences to convey some sort of end - if so, what are the rules with that?
    – Nmdy
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 12:07
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This dictionary definition addresses the use of 了:

用在句尾或句中停顿的地方,表示感叹的语气.

E.g. 太好了。

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  • Great thank you, but how do I know when I can use this function of it. Can I go around saying for example, "这个人非常胖了" or even "这个人挺胖了/这个人挺胖的了"? Is it also grammatical to take away the 了 in this case, so that I am say "too/really" but without this vague exclamation?
    – Nmdy
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 12:09

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