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  1. 我們回家後變賣客廳的沙發。

  2. 我們回家後客廳的沙發。

Both means to sell. I understand 2, and it looks correct and sufficient. I don't understand 1. In essence what is 變 doing there. Thank you.

4 Answers 4

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"" is the act of "sell", which can be triggered by any reason, or out of desire.

  • 我們回家後賣(掉)了客廳的沙發。- "After home, we sold the living room sofa."

"變賣" is a phrase indicating/implying the act of selling (of estate/personal things) is a must triggered by an urgent need, and usually in exchange for cash to get out of a bad/difficult situation. The act of selling is often forced upon.

  • 我們回家後變賣了客廳的沙發(去應急)。- "After home, We sold the living room sofa (for cash to meet the urgent need)."

Note that both sentences are statements of an act completed in the past, so adding "了" after "賣/變賣" is necessary. For presenting a present case or making a simple statement, we shall say:

  • (讓)我們回家客廳的沙發。- Let's go home and sell the living room sofa. (Note the selling could be triggered by any reason - it is too old or looks ugly, or we need more money for....)

  • (讓)我們回家變賣客廳的沙發("去救急"/"換錢")。- Let's go home and sell the living room sofa (to "cope with the emergency"/"exchange for cash"). (Note that, in the Chinese case, it is understood that there is an urgent need for the sale even without stating the phrase in ().)

ADD: "變" can be interpreted as "convert/change"; "變賣" is the act of selling that converts/changes fixed assets/things into currency to meet one's need.

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  • I don't think the need has to be urgent. It just needs to be important enough that one wants to convert their properties for cash to meet such need.
    – 王博龙
    Commented Jul 2 at 2:42
  • @王博龙 "變賣" is equivalent to a "short/quick sale" of today conducted by a person who needs cash now. The term had prevalent uses in the past, and it was usually motivated by events such as paying ransom to get the safe return of hostage(s); repaying gambling debt to avoid being harmed by the gangsters employed by the gambling house; paying the medical bills to save/extend a loved one's life..., all the events were exceedingly important and couldn't wait for the solution. Today, we still often hear "為了送兒子上大學, 他變賣了所有家產", - an event, deemed by most Chinese parents, can't be delayed,
    – r13
    Commented Jul 2 at 13:10
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In simple words:

"變賣"stuff must be second-hand.
Just for emergencies in exchange for money, NOT meaning 'I Do NOT need it' !

"賣" is only 'sell' , maybe (or maybe not) the second-hand.
even I 'sell' the second-hand stuff, that's meaning I don't need it anymore.

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The key lies in the word 變 “change”. 變賣 refers to an exceptional circumstance when property is sold off (usually at a loss) to raise cash, most often to pay off a debt. "Sell off" is a good translation.

1 五年前女友為了男友變賣了所有的家產 She sold off all of her family property to raise cash for her boyfriend

2 嫌犯搶走63枚金戒指,短短4個鐘頭內就變賣了大約20枚 The suspect stole 63 rings and managed to sell 20 of them in only four hours [The thief was in a hurry, so they were obviously NOT sold for their full retail price]

3 變賣了我們夫妻倆共同努力買的車子和房子,最後,我們一無所有 We sold off the house and car that we had pooled our resources to buy and were left with nothing [the original quote goes on to say that they then moved overnight in an effort to evade creditors]


In the original question (我們回家後變賣客廳的沙發) 變賣 refers to the decision to get rid of the sofa, to sell it for whatever a buyer would pay. The goal was probably to raise cash in a short time.

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  • 嫌犯搶走63枚金戒指... This is NOT 變賣! Exactly this is 銷贓!! 變賣 should be selling something belong to ME! Not by stealing others.
    – James
    Commented Jul 10 at 6:29
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變賣 usually refers to selling off properties belongs to a person or a family. AFAIK, it does not neceassrily refer to any urgent situations or fire sales.

賣 is the generic term for selling.

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