I suspect that 太 has a similar function in negatives as 很 does in negative sentences.

Some Chinese speakers have corrected some of my negative sentences in include a 太.

e.g.: 他不高兴 was corrected to 他不太高兴.

How necessary is this use of 太?

What is it's function?

2 Answers 2


-> too, extremely, very

他不高兴 -> He's not happy -> He's unhappy

他不太高兴 -> He's not very happy -> He's a little unhappy

  • Just an add on, 他太不高兴 is also valid, which means "He's too unhappy"
    – David Ng
    Sep 12, 2014 at 4:21
  • I disagree, “他太不高兴” sounds weird.
    – Justin XL
    Sep 13, 2014 at 8:51

Just look at any Chinese grammar, e.g. Chinese, A Comprehensive Grammar, 4.3: degree adverbs and complements occur respectively before and after adjectives to indicate the degree or extent to which the meaning is encoded by an adjective is to be ascertained: 这本字典很好。[很degree adverb] 这本字典好得很[得很degree complement]. The presence of these degree adverbs and complements removes any implication of contrast that is latent in an unmarked predicative adjective. If somebody says: 这本字典好, the speaker must be implying that some other dictionary is not as good as this one.... Other degree adverbs are: 太、更/更加、万分、。。。。 Suspicion regarding function of 太 also is well known fact of Chinese grammar. Maybe it should be added that 不太高兴 (unhappy) is more common than 太不高兴 which latter expression seems to mean "not (very) happy"

  • Good point! I suspect 'bu tai' may be perceived as more polite because it's softening the negative.
    – neubau
    Sep 12, 2014 at 6:18

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