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This is a "faulty sentence" from the HSK6 Standard Course (p.112; photo of original), in a section called 表意不明:

病句:记得吗,我和你认识的时候,还是个中学生,充满热情,充满理想。

分析:句中“还是个中学生”可以是“我”,也可以是“你”,应在该分句前补上主语“我”或“你”。

As far as I can tell, there's only one possible interpretation of the original sentence: in the second clause, I feel there's two reasonable interpretations of the subject: 我 and 我和你, but the subsequent 个 in 还是个中学生 implies the subject is a single person, so the subject is unambiguously 我.

So I'm not quite sure where the error lies. Maybe the subject is only interpretable as 我和你, and not 我. I'm not sure why the explanation says 你 could be a 中学生; that doesn't seem to be a reasonable interpretation.

Question: What's the error in 记得吗,我和你认识的时候,还是个中学生,充满热情,充满理想?

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  • I like that you don't blindly trust the editor's word and think for yourself, 尽信书不如无书
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Feb 4 at 7:11
  • 结合语境,比如说双方年龄差,对方大概能理解“还是个中学生”指的是谁。不过,在“还是个中学生”前面加上一个主语确实会使语义更清晰。
    – user398843
    Commented Feb 5 at 8:21

8 Answers 8

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记得吗,我和你认识的时候,还是个中学生,充满热情,充满理想。

I agree with your argument, Since 我 appears first in 我和你, it is the presumed subject. Therefore, the subject of 还是个中学生 is unambiguously 我

If the sentence was "记得吗,你和我认识的时候,还是个中学生,充满热情,充满理想。" with 你 appears first in 你和我, the presumed subject would be 你

The reason it was considered an error is in the editor's mind, 我和你 and 你和我 are interchangeable, both mean 我們 (we)

The error only occurs when the sentence uses 我們 instead of 我和你 or 你和我

记得吗,我們认识的时候,还是个中学生,充满热情,充满理想。

You need to define the subject as 我 or 你 (it cannot be 我們 because we know it is a singular subject from the singular classifier "个" in "还是个中学生"

Edit:

To clarify

我和你认识的时候,(我)还是个中学生 (O) - (我) is the implied subject

我和你认识的时候,我还是个中学生 (O) - Make the implied subject 我 specific would make the sentence more clear

我和你认识的时候,你还是个中学生 (O) - The specific subject 你 overrides the implied subject (我)

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  • Quote:- "Since 我 appears first in 我和你, it is the presumed subject. Therefore, the subject of 还是个中学生 is unambiguously 我" My view is, in order to remove the ambiguity, the sentence should then read 我认识你的时候,(我)还是个中学生..... ? Commented Feb 4 at 8:18
  • Quote:- "Since 我 appears first in 我和你, it is the presumed subject. Therefore, the subject of 还是个中学生 is unambiguously 我" Does that mean if the sentence reads 你和我认识的时候, the subject is unambiguously 你? Commented Feb 4 at 8:26
  • @Wayne Cheah -- "你和我认识的时候, the subject is unambiguously 你" is in my answer. The problem here is the editor considered 我和你 = 你和我 = 我們 and assigned the "subject undefined" error based upon the different term 我們 which is not in the original context
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Feb 4 at 9:08
  • Thanks for the clarification. Commented Feb 4 at 9:54
  • This assumes that 我和你认识的时候 is an adverbial clause describing the following 还是个中学生 (“Do you remember? When we first met, I/you were still…”). This is not necessarily the case. If you take it to be the object of 记得 and thus more loosely connected to the following clause (“Do you remember when we first met? I/you were still…”), the alternative interpretation with 你 as the implied subject becomes a much stronger possibility. Commented Feb 5 at 3:02
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As a native Chinese, from a daily conversation perspective, there is no error. Think about that, "还是个中学生" is about prompting your friend to recall the memory you both shared, it should be obvious to both side at what age they met. There is no need for more clarity, in fact I would prefer concise sentence.

But take my word with a grain of salt, as I am coming from conversation perspective, not grammar-correctness.

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See? People have different opinions about this, which means the subject is not unambiguously 我.

I have to say that this sentence is specifically designed for error correction and is not the most common way to express the idea, as adding 我/你 before 还是 makes it sound a bit repetitive.

The most natural way to say it, in my opinion, is:

记得吗,刚和你认识的时候,我还是个中学生,充满热情,充满理想。

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If the language is ambiguous, all assumptions are permissible, but the context may clarify:

记得吗,我和你认识的时候,我/你还是个中学生,充满热情,充满理想.

Or forget 个, choose 我和你 = 我们

你记得吗,我和你认识的时候,我们俩都是中学生,都充满热情,充满理想的.
Do you remember when we met? We were both Middle School students, both full of enthusiasm, both full of ideals.

"Whatever happened to
the love we used to know?"

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I think this sentence rightfully belongs to the section "表意不明 - expression lacks clarity, or expression contains ambiguity", as "我和你认识的时候,(who?) 还是个中学生..."

The ambiguity made this sentence less acceptable to the academic, and likely would draw ridicule from the picky folks - "誰是 - 我是, 你是, 还是"你我"/"我們"都是?"

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  • Quote:- "我和你认识的时候,(who?) 还是个中学生..."My, (unacademic view), is that it should be "我", (not for the reason given by Tang Ho), but the ending part of the sentence -- 充满热情,充满理想, (full of passion and idealistic aspirations) The sentence implies that these much desired qualities were "lose" in later years after the first meeting during their high school days. Now, it is more polite, (in my old-fashioned view) to say or imply that it is oneself rather than the listener who has lose these fine qualities because the latter case would sound presumptuous on the speaker's part. (to be continued below) Commented Feb 5 at 2:10
  • To continue. What if we say "我和你认识的时候,我們还是个中学生, 充满热情,充满理想" Does this, therefore, say or imply that both parties have lose their passions and ideals? Grammatically, I see nothing wrong with the above sentence. Commented Feb 5 at 2:16
  • @WayneCheah Note that the original sentence wasn't put in the "Wrong" box but was criticized for "unclarity/ambiguity". Without add'l supporting material, it is up to everybody's guess who is the owner of the blank (?) :)
    – r13
    Commented Feb 5 at 14:42
  • @Wayne There is something grammatically wrong with your replaced sentence: ‘we’ (a plural entity) can’t be a (singular) high school student. 我们还是中学生 (‘we were still high school students’) works, but not 我们还是中学生. Commented Feb 5 at 17:52
  • Yes, you are right. It should be 我们还是中学生. The tyranny of copy and paste :) Commented Feb 6 at 6:17
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The subject could be 我和你/我/none.

我和你在认识的时候,还是个中学生。"我和你" is the subject.

我在和你认识的时候,还是个中学生。"我" is the subject.

在我和你认识的时候,还是个中学生。No subject.

Only #2 makes sense. But that's the point if it is originally intended for the learner to correct the sentence: The original meaning could be derived, so there is an objectively correct answer. It's just not expressed very clearly.

But for the sentence itself (without "在"), I think it is on borderline that different people would think differently about whether it is acceptable. To me, it sounds more natural by just removing the comma. It might have something to do with this probably more natural expression:

(在)和你认识的时候,我还是个中学生。("我" may need to be added back after "在" if it is prefixed by "记得吗", which has the implied subject "你".)

But it's too dense to remove this comma. So removing the comma justifies moving the subject beforehand. But it only feels a little dense in other cases:

地震的时候我和你还是中学生。

在我和你认识的时候有人不满意了。

In any cases, I think it's not very useful looking too much into such details.

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这句话的主要歧义在于——是“我还是个中学生”,还是“我们还是个中学生”?

从母语者的直觉来看,因为语序是我在前,你在后,这小句的隐含主语基本不像是“你还是个中学生”,剩下就是“我”和“我们”的差异了。

这个歧义一般需要靠话外的别的信息来解决,比如下文或者年龄差异。单拎出来的话这句话确实不好说是怎么回事,从歧义越少越好的角度来看,是会认为这是病句的。

The prime ambiguity is – Is it "I was a high schooler", or is it "We were high schoolers"?

As a native speaker I can say by instinct that the order of "I" before "you" rules out the implicit pronoun being "you were", so the remaining options are "I was" and "we were".

Normally the ambiguous omitted pronoun can be pulled from context, like age difference and following words. Alone though, there is no way to resolve the ambiguity, so this is not considered sound when you want as less ambiguity as possible.

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  • 「我们」还是「个」中学生 …… 不会吧? Commented Feb 5 at 18:04
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I disagree with the analysis. In fact, my opinion is adding a clarification as suggested causes redundancy.

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