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Modern translate engines are good to mimic native speakers syntax, but haven't explained yet why you have to do it in this way.

I would like to say something like this:

我现在在休息,我想做一些事情与工作无关

But Google translate says this will be sound more naturally for Chinese:

我现在在休息,想做一些与工作无关的事情

Why it would be so? 为什么?

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  • Chinese is head final w.r.t. noun phrases (and some other stuff). If something modifies something else, the modifier goes first. You asked about "why" in a comment, and I don't think there is an answer to that, but this is the linguistic terminology if you're interested. Jan 30 at 20:17
  • Thanks! Who knows, may be some thoughtful Chinese native could notice within his\her history and language practice some links which could shed the light on this issue.
    – Gleichmut
    Jan 31 at 1:49
  • The AllSet grammar wiki is a good resource for grammar points: resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/… Jan 31 at 19:28

5 Answers 5

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我现在在休息,我想……

First, Chinese grammar has a kind of "rolling subject"; in this case, the subject 我 carries over from the first clause, and you don't need both 我s. So Google Translate deletes the redundant 我.

……一些与工作无关的事情。
...a few non-work-related matters.
...a few matters not related to work.

This is the correct word order according to Chinese grammar. Here, 与工作无关 modifies the noun 事情, so we use the grammar structure:

Phrase + 的 + Noun

where "Phrase" is technically called an attributive (定语 in Chinese; it's a generalized adjective).

Normally we don't add content after a Chinese noun to modify it. (This differs from verbs and adjectives, which can take complements.)

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In "想做一些与工作无关的事情 (I want to do some non-job-related thing)", [与工作无关的] is an adjectival phrase that modifies [事情] (what thing? the thing that's not related to my job)

In "我想做一些事情, 与工作无关", [我想做一些事情]and[与工作无关] are two clauses, the second clause is a dependent clause of the first clause, in other words, [与工作无关] add additional information to [我想做一些事情]

"我想做一些事情" = "I want to do something",

"(这)与工作无关" = "(this action) has nothing to do with my job

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  • Thank you, I had clear understanding of this before posting this question. My concern is what is a cause why your word order varies from Latin based or Russian groups of languages. Becky's reply gives me more details, but still doesn't give me enough to make right mind shift.
    – Gleichmut
    Jan 30 at 17:05
  • (offtopic) you might be interested in my personal project gelassen.github.io/blog/2023/08/20/… to get some insights for your Cantonese dictionary.
    – Gleichmut
    Jan 30 at 17:10
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In Chinese, we use descriptive phrases before a noun.

If you put the descriptive phrases after the noun like your original translation, we tend to think the phrases are to describe the whole sentence, namely, '我想...'. This means, my thought of doing something is non-work-related. What's more, if this is what you really means, I suggest put a comma before the descriptive phrases.

To summarize:

我现在在休息,我想做一些事情,与工作无关。 ==> I am resting and I want to do something. This intention is non-work-related.

我现在在休息,我想做一些与工作无关的事情。 ==> I am resting and I want to do something that is non-work-related.

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  • Thank you, that's valuable.
    – Gleichmut
    Jan 31 at 17:03
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与工作无关 is a descriptor for 事情.Chinese does not use relative clauses.

我现在在休息,我想做一些[与工作无关]的事情.
I'm having a rest now, I want to do some things [which have nothing to do with work].

Put the descriptor before the descriptee:

我现在在休息,我想做一些[与工作无关]的事情.

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想做一些与工作无关的事情

Here, 与工作无关 modifies 事情, hence the term is placed in front. Just like you say "green apple" and not "apple green" in English.

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