Questions tagged [usage]

Questions that concern the use of expressions, parts of speech, words, verbs, etc.

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20
votes
2answers
1k views

When to use 了 and when to use 过 to express past actions or events

I kind of have an idea when 了 and 过 should be used but it's mostly on a case by case basis, and I don't know the exact rules. So if I want to express something that happened in the past, when should ...
27
votes
8answers
3k views

How do I decide whether to use 可以, 会 or 能?

According to every dictionary I've seen so far, there is a big overlap in these: 可以 = can, may, be able to 会  = can, be able to, able 能  = can, may, able, capable How do I properly choose which ...
8
votes
1answer
287 views

When should I use the 是…的 construction?

I've been told that 是...的 is used to put emphasis on something, but I'm not sure when or why I should use it.
3
votes
3answers
524 views

What is the difference between 只要 and 如果?

What is the difference between these two sentences? 只要明天不下雨,我们就去爬山。 如果明天不下雨,我们就去爬山。 They seem very close in meaning.
7
votes
1answer
308 views

怎么… with 的 and 了

So it is said that if you find 的 after 怎么, the sentence represents 'How', and if you find 了 after 怎么, the sentence represents 'Why'. How : 你怎么来的? "How did you come?" Why : 你怎么来了? "Why did you come?" ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do Chinese translations of English names sound very inaccurate?

I have noticed that most Chinese translation of English names sounds really inaccurate and weird. For example, the common translation of person's name "Robert Wilson" is "罗伯特·威尔逊", which is not ...
11
votes
6answers
3k views

What's the difference between 对不起, 对不住 and 不好意思

When I was in China, I heard people using 不好意思 to apologize casually. I also heard the expression 对不住 in TV series and movies. Is there any differences?
6
votes
2answers
641 views

Why is 的 used in these sentences?

I have the following sentences: 你是哪一天出生的? (sentence 1) I'm trying to understand why 的 is being used in this sentence. I know it is used to express possession, but I'm not sure that's the case is ...
5
votes
7answers
1k views

When to use “他的太太” and when “他太太”?

I've read the two different sentences, of which one uses "他的太太" and the other uses "他太太". How can I tell the difference between the two? For example, in the following sentence: 现在他想他的太太。 现在他想他太太。 ...
20
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the difference in use between 以及, 和 and 与?

I have a book with the following lesson titles: 中文以及中国 聚会和饮食 交通与环境 Why are these terms connected with 以及 / 和 / 与, why not always use 和 for example? Are there any rules for proper use of these ...
8
votes
3answers
938 views

When do you use 所有, 全部, 整个, 完整?

I have a hard time wrapping about these specific words. As far as I know 所有 is most similar to "all of the..." like “所有的人”. While 全部 is more or less like 所有 except you don't need 的 between it and ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

What's the difference between 了, 著 and 到 when used as verb complements?

I need help with sorting out the difference between 了, 著 and 到 when used as verb complements. I have learnt most of my Chinese in Taiwan and in my experience, Taiwanese people don't use 著 as a verb ...
7
votes
5answers
869 views

What are the common ice-breaker sentences in Chinese?

There are sentences in English like "What's up?" "What's going on?" "how have you been?" to begin a conversation with or to greet people (friends or relatives) So what are the common ice-breaker ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

Differentiating between 收 and 受

I've noticed a lot of people have trouble differentiating between 收 and 受. Both their pronunciations and meanings are similar. How to differentiate between the two? What tricks and tips are there ...
16
votes
6answers
917 views

When is it appropriate to address a lady as 先生?

Chairman Mao addressed Soong Ching-ling as 宋庆龄先生. Yang Jiang was also addressed as 杨绛先生 by the public. My dad used to tell me to address some of his female colleagues as 先生 too. I wonder why a lady ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

What's the actual difference between 文 and 语?

Both mean "language" with some other related meanings. A friend of mine told me that while 文 refers more to the written language, 语 is more related to the spoken one. Is this a difference and is it ...
6
votes
4answers
660 views

Why is (是) shi4 dropped in this sentence:“我很好”?

I''m a Chinese learner for quite a while, I've been wondering why (是) shi4 is dropped in sentences like this:"我很好" Isn't there supposed to be a verb in every sentences? like 我(是)很好.
3
votes
4answers
7k views

In what instances can use you use 干嘛 over 干吗 (and vice versa)?

I noticed that 干嘛 appears used in various forms of media, such as newspapers, magazines, and movie subtitles. From a pronunciation standpoint, 嘛 and 吗 are different (neutral tone vs. second tone, ...
2
votes
2answers
129 views

What's the difference between 扣好安全带 (kòuhǎo ānquándài) and 系好安全带 (jìhǎo ānquándài), which both seem to mean “fasten seatbelt”?

On the plane I see 就座后扣好安全带 (jiù zuòhòu kòuhǎo ānquándài) which is translated to "fasten seatbelt while seated". On the bus I see 上车请系好安全带 (shàngchē qǐng jìhǎo ānquándài) which I think translates to ...
1
vote
2answers
61 views

Usage of 就 in these two examples

I'm taking an intermediate Chinese course and ran across a character whose usage I can't quite wrap my head around: 就. I believe the meaning of the character itself are "then, right away, etc." ...
-1
votes
2answers
117 views

Need Help Editing (需要帮助的编辑)

Is anyone willing to help me edit this monologue for grammatical errors? If so, I would really appreciate it. I have also included the pinyin in case it helps to understand what I meant. I have chosen ...
26
votes
4answers
4k views

但是, 可是 and 不过 - how to know which one to use?

According to my dictionary, 但是, 可是 and 不过 all mean "but/however"? However are there any differences between them? Are there some cases, where one can be used but not another?
10
votes
7answers
2k views

What is the difference between using 光 vs using 只?

What is the gramatical difference between 光 and 只? 光剩下2毛钱 does not have the same meaning/context as 只剩下2毛钱 It seems there is more emphasis to the part that comes after 光. When is the right time to ...
10
votes
3answers
659 views

When do I use 着 to indicate action in progress?

It seems like for some verbs (正)在 is used to indicate action in progress, but I have also encountered 着 for some, like 穿着. When should it be used, is there a rule to follow?
11
votes
6answers
876 views

“小王” 和 “老王” how to determine which to use?

This is something I still haven't mastered and still just go with the flow. If I wanted to call someone a nickname, say for Mr. Wang, which one should I choose? What defines whether I should call him ...
9
votes
4answers
3k views

What's the difference between 舅舅 and 叔叔?

My favorite short story in modern Mandarin, 2015 by 王小波, is basically a long, humorous digression about the author's 舅舅: 我舅舅是个无照画家,和别人不同的是,他总在忙些正事。有时他在作画;有时他卖画,并且因此蹲在派出所里。他作画时把房门锁上,再戴上个防震耳罩,...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the difference between 怎么 and 怎么样 ?

What is the difference between 怎么 and 怎么样 ? It seems like both mean something like "how". I also see that 怎么样 is often used to ask someone's opinion on something. In what contexts can 怎么 be used ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Addressing women as “小姐” in Northern China

I heard that it is not appropriate to call women or girls "小姐" in northern China. That it is considered rough and has a meaning close to "hooker". So I never address girls or women as "小姐" in the ...
11
votes
2answers
322 views

Implications of “旧的不去,新的不来”

I found this idiom while looking for another idiom my friend told me about like 回去回来 or 回来回去. I'm wondering about the implications of 旧的不去,新的不来 though. Can this be used for people who hold onto broken ...
9
votes
5answers
554 views

In this sentence, what is the purpose of 的?

Consider this sentence: 你说的是什么? I understand that 的 permits creating adjectives, like 我的 would be "my". But here, I can’t see how it works. What is its purpose?
8
votes
7answers
1k views

Is it correct to say “在手机”?

Would it be correct to use the phrase "在手机”/“在手机上” etc. to express that I am doing something on my phone? For example, could I say 我听音乐在我的手机上。 Or can 在 only be used for my actual physical location?...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

When to use “们”

In Chinese, using "们" after a noun is, in some sense, equivalent to adding an "s" after an English word. Yet I find the rules in Chinese of using 们 to be very puzzling; I am a native speaker yet I ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Difference between 曾经 and 已经

In this question I was asking about 曾经 and one answer says it means 'already'. What's the difference between 曾经 and 已经? Do the two sentences below have the same meaning? 他曾经在北京学过两年汉语。 ...
7
votes
8answers
2k views

What role does 成 (chéng) play in the sentence 我把十块美元换成人民币?

A jukuu.com example sentence for 人民币 is: 我把十块美元换成人民币 I change ten dollars into Renminbi (Wǒ bǎ shí kuài měiyuán huàn chéng rénmínbì) Question: What role does 成 play in the sentence ...
5
votes
6answers
399 views

Can I say 没 to negate future events?

I saw this sentence in a book: 明年这个时候你还没有毕业呢 I thought the sentence was wrong at first, but it says the sentence is grammatically correct and that there's nothing wrong with it. As you know, most ...
4
votes
7answers
1k views

Can we call someone X太太 or not?

Can we call someone X太太 ? or is it the calling of husband to his wife? In my textbook everybody calls one women 錢太太. But my teacher said it is unsuitable. Which one is correct?
2
votes
6answers
374 views

How to introduce “Husband” in social occasions?

Some common words are 先生 or 老公, Are there any other options that would be more socially appropriate?
2
votes
3answers
665 views

Difference between 能 and verb + 得了(de liao3)

I remember once being told that there are differences in usage and meaning between 能 and verb + 得了. 他能来。 他不能来。 他来得了。 他来不了。 EDIT: Maybe my examples above weren't that good. Here are some new ones: ...
11
votes
5answers
260 views

How common is the use of “瞧” and which region?

I've seen 瞧 used every now and then in written Chinese, but I've rarely heard it said in spoken Chinese except for the occasional mention of 瞧不起. A couple of days ago I was watching Kung Fu Panda and ...
8
votes
3answers
429 views

How is 青 and 苍 used in classical Chinese to denote colors?

Here is what the dictionary says about 青:  1. 深绿色或浅蓝色:~草。~苔。 Dark Blue or light green.  2. 靛蓝色:靛~。~紫。 Indigo blue.  3. 黑色:~布。~衣。 Black. Similar case is 苍:  1. 深青色,深绿色:~翠。~天。 Dark blue ...
7
votes
2answers
6k views

Subway door announcement mystery

I think probably every metro system around the world has to have an audio announcement warning passengers to stay away from the train's doors as they're closing. Here in New York, a pre-recorded voice ...
6
votes
1answer
78 views

how to translate “何如” in 呂氏春秋?

this question is made, and answer provided; in response to a comment in another question: How to translate the phrase 利而物利章 in context? cause, my explanation is too long to put in the comment area; ...
5
votes
2answers
148 views

他很慢地走: why there is 地 if the adjective is monosyllabic?

I can't use 地 after the adjective if the adjective is monosyllabic (so 他慢地走 isn't acceptable). Then why in this sentence is there 地 after a monosyllabic adjective? 他很慢地走 Is it because I can use 地 ...
4
votes
7answers
1k views

What does 起来 mean in this phrase?

把被子收起来吧. Translation: Let's put the quilt away. In other circumstances, 起来 means to get up but here there is a different meaning, and from the definitions I can't decide which definition is used ...
4
votes
2answers
349 views

How to use 了 as a modal particle?

I'm having a hard time understanding when to use 了 as a modal particle (instead of as an aspect particle). For example, what is the difference between the following two sentences. 现在几点? 现在几点了? ...
4
votes
2answers
224 views

Why can't 了 be used to complement 到?

I have been taught that the sentence 我刚到了 (wǒ gāng dào le) is not correct because 了 cannot be used as a complement of 到. Is this right? If so, why?
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Usage: Spaces in Chinese

I asked a similar question about Japanese here. Chinese names are sometimes stylized last name + space + first name. Here the author's name 马骥 is stylized, last name + space + first name: 马 骥 ...
4
votes
1answer
99 views

can I use (女)孩子 even if the person in question is an adult?

I only want to point out the family relation and asking a parents about their daughter (who is ~40 years old herself). Still not sure whether using 孩子 is appropriate here. is it?
3
votes
3answers
143 views

Use of 了 - when is it necessary?

我走到海滩边,看到一幢房子前有一块写着“旅馆”的牌子. I went to the seaside and saw a building with sign in front of it which said 'hotel'. Authentic Chinese with my translation. This is in the past. But there is no 了. Is ...
3
votes
5answers
271 views

Can you apply 男子汉 and 女汉子 to non-Chinese?

The term 汉奸 probably only works for Han Chinese traitors, but what about other '汉's?