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The premise of my question is wrong, and was based on spending too many hours trying to explain the ins and outs of Chinese verb structure to a colleague. I'll leave the question here anyway, though, because the answers that were provided below may be useful to others. Thanks!

It seems that Chinese employs many strategies to avoid the phrase ”会是“. Indeed, 会是 makes no sense, although following the logic of (very) basic Chinese grammar, it should mean "will be". Other stative verbs can take 会 to be used in the future: 会在,会有,会想. So what is special about 是 that precludes its use with 会 to talk about the future?


Two examples of sentences that use "will be" in English, and my translations of those sentences. These examples seem to reveal a set of strategies that Chinese uses to work around the usage 会是.

  1. "Next year, this place will not be my home.", I would say: 明年,这个地方就不是我的家了 -- but this seems to add extra meaning: "next year, this place won't be my home anymore.
  2. "next year, I won't be a student." 明年,我不会当学生。 -- but this avoids the use of the verb 是。
  3. "next year, I will be a student." 我明年学生(了)。 -- but this lacks the focus on future-ness that the English sentence conveys, and that could be conveyed in Chinese with ”我明年会当学生“。

4 Answers 4

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Why does 是 not go with 会 when talking about the future?

It does because 会是 can be short for 將会是 (will be) or 可能会是 (would/could be)

Example:

如果拜登当选连任,他(将)会是史上最年老的美国总统 -- If Biden is re-elected, he (will) be the oldest U.S. president in history

You cannot omit 会 and write 如果拜登当选连任,他是史上最年老的美国总统 -- If Biden is re-elected, he is the oldest U.S. president in history

However, you can omit 会 in 如果拜登当选连任,他将(会)是史上最年老的美国总统 because 將 already indicate it is in the future

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I find many many examples of 会是。 Who told you you Chinese "avoids" it?

Next year this place will no longer be my home.
明年,这个地方将不再(会)是我的家。

Next year I will no longer be a student.
明年我将不再(会)是一名学生。

Next year I will be a university student.
明年我将成为一名大学生。

那不会是犯罪,但肯定将会是一个奇迹。
It won't be a crime, but it will certainly be a miracle.

会是谁呢?
Who might that be?

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This is purely based on a native speaker's sense and is not backed by any formal linguistic reasoning, but:

  1. I don't think 会是 cannot be used in your examples. 明年我不会是学生(了) is at least as natural as 明年我不会当学生.
  2. I do think adding 会 makes it more deliberate and/or consequential. Compare 明天我在家 and 明天我会在家. The former is a plain statement of a fact. The later either implies that I'm usually not home/will return home after being away/will make an effort staying at home, or suggests there are other implications of my being home (e.g., I'll be home so you can visit; I'll be home so I can take care of the chores, etc). Similarly, if I say "我明年会是学生", I probably am not a student right now or there're other implications (e.g., I'll finally become a student; I'll be a student so I can't work any more, etc). In fact I find it difficult to think of a circumstance where I'd plainly say "我明年是学生", since if I were a student and would continue to be a student as expected, it's a very unremarkable situation.
  3. So if 会是 sounds unnatural, maybe it's because the predicatives that follow 是 are often relatively static characteristics/status that we do not remark upon as often?
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No, the Chinese do not avoid using ”会是“ when condition entails.

”会是“ means "be possible to be" or simply - "will..be"

  1. 明年,这个地方就不是我的家了 = 明年,这个地方就不会是我的家了 (Next year, this place will not be my home anymore.)

  2. "明年,我不会当班長了" (Next year, I won't be managed to be the class leader") is similar to "明年,我不会是班長了" (Next year, I won't be the class leader any more).

  3. "Next year I'll be a student" - "明年我將成為一個學生" = "明年我將会是一個學生".

The use of 会是 is rather common in conservation to express doubt and suspicion. For example:

  • 那會是誰? - Who will that (possibly) be?

  • 會是他嗎? - Will that (possibly) be him?

  • 那不會是他. - It's not possible to be him = It won't be him.

  • 那到底(究竟)會是誰呢 - Ultimately(Actually) who'll that (possibly) be?

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