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There are two characters 联 and 连. They are both pronounced lián, and they both mean "to join" in the dictionary. What is the distinction between them?

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  • As a side note, it is believed by one of the Qing-dynasty annotators of the Shuowen Jiezi, Duan Yucai 段玉裁, that both were variant characters from different dynasties for the same word (周人用聯字,漢人用連字,古今字也). I've not seen modern analyses on this though. This 聯~連 word has also been linked to Tibetan གྲལ gral.
    – Michaelyus
    Nov 17, 2023 at 16:25

4 Answers 4

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连 is usually to connect in a physical way, i.e. 连线 (draw a line between two entities), 连接 (to connect things). 联 is more metaphysical, i.e. 联合 (to union), 联系 (connection, in the metaphoric sense), 联络 (to communicate).

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... they both mean "to join"

The fact is, they are two different words that contain the meaning of "to join/ connect" when they are used as a verb

  • Both 在一起 and 在一起 mean "to join together"

Their other meanings do not overlap with each other.

连 also means "consecutive"

  • 连续(consecutive/ continuous) cannot be changed to 联续

  • 连年征战 (year after year of fighting) cannot be changed to 联年征战

~

联 also means " to ally"

  • 联盟(alliance/ coalition) cannot be changed to 連盟

  • 联宋灭金 (ally with the Song Dynasty to destroy the Jin Dynasty) cannot be changed to 連宋灭金

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联 doesn't really mean "to join" though. It's generally used to denote "ally" or "unite." For example, 聯合國, 聯軍, 聯盟.

The two characters have overlaps and can be used interchangably at times.

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Although and both mean 连接(connect) and 联合(join), there are some subtle differences in their usage.

In general:

  • focuses more on physical connection, which can refer to the continuous connection of things in space or time.
  • is more inclined to abstract union, emphasizing the joint cooperation of organizations, groups, concepts, etc. in thoughts, goals or actions.

about

  • verb.

连接connect , join

把电脑和路由器用网线起来。

Connect the computer and router with a network cable.

这个开口环是用来连接链条两头的。

The opened link is used to join the two ends of the chain.

  • adverb.

连续, 相接 (in succession, be joined)

(续)打了好几枪,居然一次都没中靶。

He shot several times in a row, but none of them hit the target.

这些树木成一片。

The trees are joined together.

  • verb.

联合(union)

这场比赛需要我们同其他队伍一起合作完成。

This game requires us to work together with other teams to complete this game.

  • preposition.

包括 (include)

这个面包包装袋一共有1千克。

This bread including the packaging bag weighs 1 kilogram in total.

  • preposition.

It expresses emphasis (usually used with the character or ), and contains the meaning of 甚至(even).

句道歉的话没有说。

He didn't even say sorry.

  • noun.

It represents a modern military organizational unit. Company (military unit)

他在战斗中表现突出,受到连长的表扬。

He was commended by the company commander for his distinguished performance in the battle.

about

It means 联合 or 联结.

  • verb.

联合( join, unite )

我们需要联合起来反对恐怖主义。

We need to unite against terrorism.

我们决定联合其他公司共同开发新的市场战略。

We decided to join forces with other companies to develop a new market strategy.

联系( connect, contact )

手机帮助人们与他人建立联系

Mobile phones help people connect with others.

你可以通过电子邮件跟我们联系

You can contact us by e-mail.

  • noun.

联盟( alliance, league, union )

联盟已准备好采取必要行动。

The alliance stands ready to do what is necessary.

他参加了一些职业棒球次级联盟的比赛。

He played some minor league baseball.

这就是默克尔总理表示不会建立“债务联盟”的原因。

That is why Chancellor Merkel has said that there will be no "debt union".

联络/联系 ( contact, connection )

我和叔父很少联络

I don't have much contact with my uncle.

这两个想法之间有何联系?

What is the connection between the two ideas?

  • noun.

It represents well-structured antithetical phrases in poetry.

对联(对仗工整的语句)( poetic couplet ),上联下联

他在门上贴了红色的对联

He put up red couplets on the doors.

这首诗的上联下联都写得很好。

Both the first and second couplets of this poem are well written.

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