Questions tagged [usage]

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

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24 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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36 votes
8 answers
10k 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 ...
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9 votes
1 answer
673 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.
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  • 408
6 votes
2 answers
895 views

Why is 的 used in 你是哪一天出生的 and 我们什么时候开始的 and 前天你什么时候来的这里?

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 ...
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  • 719
5 votes
3 answers
987 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.
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  • 261
5 votes
4 answers
790 views

How and when is 做 used as the verb "to be"?

Can someone please clarify how and when 做 is used to mean "to be" e.g. 不愿做奴隶人们 I am familiar with 做 meaning "to do" or "to make", and I would expect that if I was saying "I am a slave", “我是一个奴隶“ ...
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  • 3,365
9 votes
1 answer
508 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?" ...
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  • 477
9 votes
5 answers
3k views

A Complex Chinese Character (Characters Identified: 招財進寶)

I randomly saw this character on the blog a while ago and saved a image of it as shown below. Is this even a character? If so, what does it mean? When is it used? What was the origin of it? How do ...
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  • 3,257
19 votes
6 answers
2k 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 ...
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16 votes
3 answers
3k 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 ...
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  • 263
14 votes
6 answers
6k 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?
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3 votes
1 answer
145 views

When does an adjective require 的 to describe a noun?

In this post on the omission of the possessive 的,I came across an explanation of the adjective suffix 的 by Tang Ho. An example was: 强大勇敢 (brave + strong) = correct without 的 强大勇敢的人 (brave and strong ...
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3 votes
2 answers
106 views

Why are the two 才s used in 很多小朋友以为长大了以后才能自由自在。他们不知道,他们才是最自由自在的?

The page I followed on Instagram uploaded a picture complete with its caption that says : 很多小朋友以为长大了以后才能自由自在。他们不知道,他们才是最自由自在的。 They also provide this translation : Many children think they can ...
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2 votes
2 answers
216 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 ...
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23 votes
1 answer
3k 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 ...
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16 votes
7 answers
3k 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 ...
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10 votes
3 answers
2k 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 ...
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  • 2,960
8 votes
5 answers
1k 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 ...
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9 votes
4 answers
3k views

How to correctly use "多" to say "more than"?

I know a similar question has already been answered but I still have a lot of doubts. To my understanding if a number is ≤9, you need to put "多" after the measure word (or after the name if it doesn'...
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7 votes
3 answers
1k views

What is 吗 doing in 你有什么事吗?

In a Chinese lesson, I came across these sentences: 你有什么事吗? Nǐ yǒu shénme shì mɑ? 你有什么事? Nǐ yǒu shénme shì? And both were translated as: What's the matter? I don't understand 1. Without 吗, I ...
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  • 2,102
6 votes
3 answers
6k 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 ...
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14 votes
3 answers
4k 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 ...
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  • 6,375
7 votes
11 answers
2k views

What is the purpose of 是 in "我应该是感冒了"?

I came across the following translated example: 我应该是感冒了,耳朵也有点儿疼,不过没发烧。 Wǒ yīnɡɡāi shì ɡǎnmào le,ěrduo yě yǒudiǎnr ténɡ,búɡuò méi fāshāo 。 I think I caught a cold, and my ears are a little painful, ...
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  • 2,102
6 votes
4 answers
953 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.
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  • 517
3 votes
3 answers
4k views

What is the difference between 打算 (dǎ suàn) and 计划 (jì huà)

Are 打算 (dǎ suàn) and 计划 (jì huà) both synonyms for "plan," or are there some additional nuances here?
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2 votes
2 answers
353 views

Differences between "Verb + Adj", "Adj + Verb", "Verb + 得 + Adj" and "Adj + 地 + Verb"?

I am having some difficulties understanding the differences in meaning between the following structures (the examples are from Line dictionary): Verb + Adj e.g: 走快了她会累。 Zŏu kuài le tā huì lĕi. ...
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  • 2,102
5 votes
4 answers
11k 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, ...
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  • 2,160
4 votes
4 answers
716 views

"She" (她) for inanimate objects in Chinese(?)

She in English (as this is the main language of the site) sometimes has the following function: Used in place of it to refer to certain inanimate things, such as ships and nations, traditionally ...
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3 votes
3 answers
1k views

Question words at the end or beginning? (e.g. "Nide baba shi shei?")

So far, question words in Chinese have always appeared at the end. But with "shei" I saw sentences like Shei shi nide baba? So can it be used at the start or end of a sentence? Can we say ...
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  • 321
2 votes
1 answer
2k views

Difference between these two phrases for "Killing two birds with one stone": 一箭双雕 vs. 一石二鸟

I learned recently that both 一箭双雕 and 一石二鸟 are equivalent to the phrase "kill two birds with one stone". Is there any difference between these two? Do they have different connotations? Would you use ...
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  • 273
1 vote
3 answers
198 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." ...
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  • 201
1 vote
5 answers
423 views

Where is the verb in reduplication of adjectives "Noun + Adj + Adj + 的"?

I understand the 的 from the structure: Adj + 的 Example: 高的。 as attaching the Adj to an omitted Noun. This omitted Noun can either be a general noun such as "one/s" (高的 can mean the tall ...
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  • 2,102
0 votes
2 answers
256 views

Difference between 问 and 让 "to ask"

How do 问 and 让 differ in meaning and in what sort of situations would you use either of them? In chinese.yabla.com there are a lot of different verbs with the meaning 'to ask'.
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  • 2,102
28 votes
4 answers
10k 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?
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  • 2,096
23 votes
8 answers
11k views

Difference between 如果 and 要是?

In the Pimsleur Mandarin course it uses 如果 (rúguǒ) to mean 'if', but the dictionary shows 要是 (yàoshì) to have a similar meaning: 如果: if; in case; in the event that 要是: if Are there any ...
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  • 3,405
17 votes
9 answers
10k views

Is Sunday 星期天 or 星期日?

I am using the ChineseSkill app to learn Chinese and I learned that 'Sunday' in Chinese is 星期天 (xīngqītiān). However, sometimes on the internet I see 星期日 (xīngqīrì). Are both correct? Why is there ...
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  • 173
10 votes
3 answers
765 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?
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12 votes
6 answers
2k 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 ...
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  • 10.1k
18 votes
7 answers
4k 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 ...
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16 votes
5 answers
9k views

What is the difference between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前)?

I'd like to have some way to differentiate between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前), in order to help with memorising them both. Referring to Modern Mandarin Grammar (Claudia Ross, Routledge 2006), it ...
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  • 195
5 votes
3 answers
3k views

How to express "the" in Chinese

I'm trying to convey the sentence "我不会好好发音四个声调" But that more directly translates as "I cannot pronounce four tones well" which is a bit ambiguous... that begs the question, which four tones? I'm sure ...
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  • 1,462
18 votes
3 answers
3k views

Why 纹 is the wrong character to write for tattoo?

I've only ever known tattoo (wénshēn) to be written as 纹身. I was reading an article from 凤凰财经 yesterday called 猪躺着也能挣:一张纹身猪皮值百万. What struck me, though, were all the comments on the article saying ...
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  • 34.3k
11 votes
2 answers
347 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 ...
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  • 582
10 votes
4 answers
6k 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,...
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  • 1,191
10 votes
1 answer
50k views

Why 福 is often used upside down?

On Chinese houses, people often place scriptures for luck, health, wealth, etc. Often, they use the word 福 [fú] turned upside down, like this: What is the reason for it?
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9 votes
5 answers
698 views

In 你说的是什么?, 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?
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  • 769
9 votes
7 answers
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?...
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9 votes
5 answers
3k 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 ...
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8 votes
3 answers
3k 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。 他已经在北京学过两年汉语。
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  • 2,603
7 votes
8 answers
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 ...
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