I've always had a bit of difficulty with statements with the term "whether" in Chinese. In this sentence I would like to say "I asked him whether or not he had met Mark." - I translated this in my diary as

"只有我跟一个卢旺达人讲了一下 如果他认识不认识Mark

Should I use 如果 in this instance? In english there is a murky divide between "Whether" and "if" but I'm not sure if this exists in Chinese.

  • 2
    Nice to see that some people still know to use whether instead of if... – dda Jul 27 '14 at 14:08

No, you can't use 如果 here. You got the right syntax in there though. What you want is just 我问他有沒有见过马克 - "I asked him whether he has met Mark". Or, since you used 认识 for your translation in the question, 我问他认不认识马克 - "I asked him whether he knows Mark"

There's no single "whether" in Chinese; you have to create the appropriate term based on the situation. One way to do this is using the structure "(verb) 不 (same verb)". For example, repeating to form 有沒有, meaning "whether (subject) has". When the verb is composed of two characters, such as 認識, normally only the first character is used before , hence 認不認識 for "whether (subject) knows".

Alternatively, another way of saying "whether is to use "是否 (verb)". For example, using this format, "I asked him whether he has met Mark" becomes 我问他是否见过马克. Similarly, "whether (subject) has" becomes 是否有, and "whether (subject) knows" is 是否認識. Saying "whether" in this style is somewhat more restricted to written forms of communication, but remains quite current.

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  • Can someone confirm the 忍不认识 part of this answer? I've heard that 认识 can not be split up. – Stephen Jul 27 '14 at 22:22
  • @Stephen Different situation. You can't substitute for 认识 normally, but that's completely irrelevant to how this particular syntax is used. Here you aren't "splitting" 认识; you are abbreviating the second character away at the first mention (but not second). – Semaphore Jul 28 '14 at 3:11

It's 是否. 是否认识 = 认不认识. 是否听过 = 听没听过. 是否知道 = 知不知道. You can handle most phrases in this way.

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Indeed, in the given context the phrase "whether or not" need not be translated; for, with respect to the sentence "I asked him whether or not he had met Mark", to say "我問他認不認識 Mark" suffices. And this is an idiomatic way to "translate".

In general the phrase "whether or not" is not to be one-one translated. For instance, the sentence "I do not know whether or not it will rain tomorrow" corresponds in Chinese the sentence "我不知道明天會不會下雨" or less idiomatically "我不知道明天下雨不下雨". The general rule is obvious now:

Let S be a true subject, let V be a verb, and let O be an object for which "whether or not S + V + O" is considered. If idiomaticness is not rigidly required, and if V' is the Chinese counterpart of V, then for "whether or not S + V + O" to be translated in Chinese it suffices to say "S + V'不V' + O".

Therefore, to translate in Chinese the given sentence "whether or not he had met Mark", where we have replaced S = he and V = had met and V' = 認識 and O = Mark, by the rule above we have

                        S + V'不V' + O = 他 認識不認識 Mark.

I hope these helpful.

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我問他有沒有遇到 Mark.

"whether or not" can be translated as "有沒有" (depending on the context, of course).

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