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这个土豆烧牛肉香极了。

I've translated this sentence as This stew of potatos and beefs is extremely fragrant

Decomposing the original Chinese sentence, I got the following.

This potatoes stew(s) beefs fragrant extremely.

I've been confusing understanding how 烧 works in the original sentence. I mean that what grammatical structure is used with 烧 here.

What term(s) can be inserted so that I can fully understand the structure of the given original sentence?

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  • I think "beef and potato stew" or "potato beef stew" sounds more natural here. "土豆烧牛肉" is a single dish, the order is just slightly different from the English. You might even just translate the whole thing as "Goulash" depending on the context.
    – Mou某
    Apr 12, 2023 at 16:01
  • The concern here is not the English translation. It is about how Chinese grammar works on a specific example.
    – PdotWang
    Apr 12, 2023 at 16:43
  • And we need to understand why the Chinese do not say 烧土豆牛肉, 烧土豆和牛肉, or 土豆牛肉烧.
    – PdotWang
    Apr 12, 2023 at 16:48

3 Answers 3

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Your question: How to understand the structure of the sentence 这个土豆烧牛肉香极了? What is the function of 烧 in 土豆烧牛肉, especially?

这个土豆烧牛肉香极了 = The dish of stew of beef with potatoes is extremely delicious.

土豆烧牛肉 is a noun (composite noun, or noun phrase) of a dish. It includes three parts, Complement + Verb + Object, where 烧 is the verb.

In Chinese grammar, it is very popular to form a composite word with the structure of Verb + Object. For example, 烧牛肉 (stew of beef), 炸虾 (Fried shrimp).

This type of word formation is often with a complement that goes before the verb, Complement + Verb + Object. The complement can be a noun, an adjective, an adverb, or other words. For example,

土豆牛肉 = stew of beef with potatoes

大虾 = Braised large shrimp in red oil.

砂锅豆腐 = Stewed Tofu in a pottery pot.

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Here 土豆烧牛肉 is the name of a dish.

photo of 土豆烧牛肉

I would parse 土豆烧牛肉 as follows:

  1. 烧牛肉, which is 牛肉 = "beef" which has been 烧 = "stewed", and
  2. 土豆 = "potato", which is functioning as an adjective describing 烧牛肉.

(Realistically, the potatoes and beef are likely stewed together, but names of dishes are flexible.)

So you can think of 烧 as functioning as an adjective modifying 牛肉 = "beef", or think of 烧牛肉 = "stewed beef" as a noun.

The given sentence translates to something like:

这个土豆烧牛肉香极了。
This Stewed Beef with Potatoes is extremely fragrant.

But it sounds clunky in English; maybe more natural would be "This stew smells delicious."

This dish's name follows a similar pattern to many other dishes, such as:

  • 牛肉炒拉面 = "Beef fried pulled noodles" (here 炒 modifies 拉面, and 牛肉 describes what kind of 炒拉面 it is);
  • 猪肉白菜煎饺 = "Pork and cabbage fried dumplings" (here 煎 modifies 饺);
  • 青椒土豆丝盖饭 = "green peppers and julienne potato on rice" (here 盖 modifies 饭).

Also, 香极了 = "extremely fragrant"---it's not part of the name of the dish. This uses the 极了 grammar pattern. Here, [adj.] + 极了 just means "extremely [adj.]".

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  • The verb 是 (to be) is often omitted in Chinese sentences. 香 is an abjective, 极了 is an adverb to modify 香.
    – PdotWang
    Apr 12, 2023 at 5:59
  • 猪肉白菜煎饺 is another pattern comparing to 土豆烧牛肉. And you can't understand Chinese in that way with fix pattern . like I mentioned in my answer, 烧 is just moved to middle of 2 nouns 土豆 & 牛肉 to get a better rhythm.On the other hand 猪肉白菜煎饺 means 煎饺 filled with 猪肉白菜 inside
    – Jammy Lee
    Apr 12, 2023 at 17:33
  • 猪肉白菜煎饺 = 猪肉白菜馅的煎饺,猪肉白菜馅的 is an adjective. For short, the part 馅的 is omitted.
    – PdotWang
    Apr 12, 2023 at 19:45
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It means 烧土豆牛肉. Chinese is a language in which the rhythm of words is sometimes more important than correcting grammar, similar to poetry. in this example , it works very well here moving 烧 to middle of 土豆 and 牛肉. It gains a better rhythm but not confusing , since everyone knows you won't 烧(roast) 牛肉 by 土豆, you will only cook them together. I have listed some examples below that follow this pattern. Additionally, I suggest searching for these dish names on YouTube to see how they are cooked. This will help you better understand them.

  • 猪肉炖粉条
  • 豆腐焖鱼

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