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CC-CEDICT: 相信 (xiāng​xìn​): to be convinced (that sth is true); to believe; to accept sth as true

Recently I encountered the sentence

你相信鬼吗?

which surprised me because it translated to "do you believe in ghosts?" (or in other words "do you believe ghosts exist?"). If I wanted to ask this question, I would probably say something like 你认为鬼存在吗?

Changing 鬼 to 我, if I asked someone

你相信我吗?

it would mean "do you believe me?" and definitely not "do you believe in me?" (or "do you believe that I exist?") [unless I happen to be a ghost, maybe]. This makes me wonder how you can tell the difference in more subtle cases such as

你相信圣诞老人吗?

which could mean "do you believe Santa Claus?" (i.e., do you believe him when he said he travels around the world delivering presents) or "do you believe in Santa Claus?" (i.e., do you believe he exists?).

Question: How do you understand sentences like 你相信圣诞老人吗? Do they mean "do you believe Santa Claus?" or "do you believe in Santa Claus?"

3 Answers 3

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If no word was omitted "你相信聖誕老人嗎?" means "Do you believe Santa Claus?" (trust him) or "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" (have faith in him)

A keyword is omitted here

你相信聖誕老人(存在)嗎? = Do you believe Santa Claus (exists)?

The question isn't: "Do you have faith in Santa Claus?". It is: "Do you believe the fact that Santa Claus exists?"

If the object was 耶穌 instead of 聖誕老人, we could understand the sentence "你相信耶穌嗎?" at face value and translate it as "Do you have faith in Jesus?"

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The form ought to be 你相信有x吗?The character 有 is essential.

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Question:

你相信圣诞老人的传说吗?
Do you believe in the legend of Santa Claus?

Answer:
No, because, if he visits every household in the world, climbs down the chimney, leaves presents, climbs back up, all over the world, he would need to travel at faster than light speed! Or he is a quantum quirk!

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