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In my work book I saw the sentence: 现在这个咖啡的颜色好一点,不是很黑

My question is: if 黑 (in 不是很黑) is an adjective, why it is used with 是? should it be 不太黑?

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  • Why do you think 是 cannot be used with adjectives?
    – EEQ
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 14:05
  • Because you use it to connect 2 nouns: Noun 1 + 是 + Noun 2. Is there a rule that states that you can use 是 with adjective?
    – Ron Milich
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 14:31

3 Answers 3

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In 不是很黑, 是 is used as a linking verb. In a negative sentence, when we have 很 modify an adjective, 是 should be used. E.g. 他不是很好,她不是很漂亮. Well, 他不很好 and 她不很漂亮 aren't natural.

However, without 很, we don't use 是 in such sentences. E.g. 她不漂亮, not 她不是漂亮. There's also an emphasis 是 and the position of 是 is moved to "before 是", like 是不 instead of 不是. E.g. 她是不漂亮. 他是不好. etc.

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  • Thanks for the clear explanation!!!
    – Ron Milich
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 15:08
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是 has many different meanings/usages, one of them is semi-equivalent to "be" in English. Just like "be" can be used with adjectives, it's perfectly fine to use 是 with adjectives, e.g., 咖啡是黑色的。

It is true that, especially in the presence of adverbs like 很/有点, 是 is often omitted, E.g., 咖啡很苦。However, even then you can still use 是 for emphasis or concession in an affirmation: 咖啡是很苦。In a negation, using 不是很黑vs不很黑 doesn't have any discernible difference in most contexts.

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"很" is an adverb that means "very or too". Here it modifies the adjective "黑" (dark). You can think of this sentence as saying "现在这个咖啡的颜色好一点了,不是很黑 - "Now the color of the coffee looks a little better, (it) isn't(不是) very dark", or "Now the color of the coffee looks a little better, not(不) very dark".

"不是(isn't/not)很黑(very dark)" = "不(not)很黑(ver dark)". Similarly, 不是太黑 = 不太黑. Here, "是" can be treated as an auxiliary word that has no specific meaning/function, and can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence.

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  • So what is the purpose of 是 in this case?
    – Ron Milich
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 14:24
  • Please see the revision above.
    – r13
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 17:07

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