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Today I read the Romance of Three Kingdoms and found that there is a title awarded to the five generals 五虎上将.

First I thought that 虎 was a measure word like 个, but there seems no other examples to evidence that,like 五虎元帅,then I believe it might be the same as 三好学生,but again as 好 is an adjective while 虎 is a noun, difference still exists.

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  • "好", in here, is a noun that means "excellence".
    – r13
    Nov 14, 2023 at 0:59

4 Answers 4

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Is the structure of "五虎上将" the same as that of "三好学生"?

The answer is no.

Though character-wise, the two four-letter idioms seem to correspond to each other.


五虎上将 is an idiom created by later generations of novelists for the convenience of readers' memory, referring to the five famous generals of Shu: 关羽, 张飞, 马超, 黄忠 and 赵云.

means general.

modifies , in ancient Chinese means high; High status, rank, seniority.

Note that the word 上将 here is slightly different from the word 上将 in a modern position.

is five, a quantifier that modifies , indicates the number of generals.

is tiger, a metaphor for bravery and power, and it's a noun used as an adjective to modify .


三好学生 is an honorary title given by schools to outstanding students. 三好 has become the goal and honor pursued by students, and has also become a synonym for "good children and good students".

学生 means student.

is the quantifier used as a noun, means three aspects, referring to moral character(品德), learning(学习), recreation and sports(文娱体育 referred to as 文体).

means excellent, an adjective that modifies , which means excellent performance in all three aspects just mentioned.


The idiom 五虎上将 has a much older history, while 三好学生 is an idiom created in modern times.

Other idioms with a similar structure to 五虎上将 include 四大天王 and 八大金刚.

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  • According to your specification, 四大天王 should be 四天大王 Nov 18, 2023 at 14:34
  • @NanningYouth Which part of my specification? "天王" is a combined noun with a long history. "天" and "王" should not be separated. (三月庚戌,天王崩。——《春秋》) Judging from ancient grammar, the "上" in "上将" is an adjective. From the outside, "上将" can also be seen as a compound word. Strictly speaking, modern grammar cannot fully explain previous idioms. Unlike the rare idioms such as "四大天王", common idioms are used to explain allusions(典故), behaviors or phenomena, rather than listing a series of people or things.
    – LIFeng
    Nov 18, 2023 at 16:39
  • I see. So what you said about the similar structure of 五虎上将 and 四大天王 is inaccurate, and if you put them into a couplet, the difference will be more noticeable. Nov 19, 2023 at 2:47
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Is the structure of 五虎上将 the same as 三好学生?

The answer is no.

In "五虎上将", "五" modifies "上将(s)", "虎" also modifies "上将". "虎" means "tigerlike".

In "三好学生", "三" modifies "好", "三好" modifies "学生". "三好" means "being excellent in all three aspects". (study, attitude, and health).

"三好学生" has a similar structure to "五星上将".

"五虎上将" means five persons, but "三好学生" does not necessarily mean three persons.

If you want to say "three good students" in Chinese, then you say " 三个好学生".

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虎 in 五虎上将 is an adjectival noun. Just like 法國(France) in 法國菜 (French cuisine)

  • 虎将 (tiger general) = a general who is as powerful as a tiger

  • 五虎将 (five tiger generals) = five powerful generals

  • 五虎上将 (five tiger supreme generals) = five powerful supreme generals

三好学生 refers to a student who is good in three aspects (品德好,学习好,身体好)

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No.

五虎上将 is to be understood as 五(break)虎上将, while 三好学生 is to be understood as 三好(break)学生.

An example of the former is 四大天王. An example of the later is 八方風雨

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