Questions tagged [usage]

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

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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 ...
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?
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 ...
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 ...
18
votes
6answers
5k 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

How do I decide whether to use 還是/还是 or 或者

還是/还是 (háishì) and 或者 (huòzhě) seem to have very similar meanings: 還是/还是: or; still; nevertheless 或者: or; possibly; maybe When I want to say 'or', how to I choose which to use, and are ...
16
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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 ...
16
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3answers
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 ...
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 ...
15
votes
3answers
788 views

Why is 我很要… an invalid statment

Why is it that to say I very much or really want something I have to say 我很想要... and not just 我很要... So if I wanted a cup of coffee I would say 我要一杯咖啡 But if I want to say I really want coffee I ...
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 ...
13
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
13
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6answers
10k views

Which website/service can give good example sentences in Chinese? [closed]

Often when learning new words, I want to see them in context. It helps my learning process, and understanding how to properly use new vocab makes it stick in my mind that much more. Does anyone have ...
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 ...
12
votes
7answers
3k views

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常?

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常? I hear them a lot in conversational Chinese, but I can't pick out the difference in meaning. The dictionaries I've checked don't seem to agree on their ...
11
votes
9answers
5k 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 ...
11
votes
6answers
877 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 ...
11
votes
6answers
3k views

What is the Difference Between 方法 and 办法?

Both have comparable definitions of "method", "manner", "means", etc. and describe or define a way of doing something. The phrase 没(有)办法 is often used to deflect responsibility by claiming ...
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 ...
11
votes
3answers
326 views

Difference between 生前 and 死前

Literally, 死前 means before death while 生前 means before life. They seem to bear the opposite meaning. However, in most cases, they actually mean the same thing, i.e., when someone was still alive. What'...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

What is the difference in use between 完 and 了?

If I understood correctly, both 完 and 了 can be used to indicate a completed action, so what is the difference in use? How do we properly use 完 in a sentence? Which contexts would be valid?
11
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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?
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 ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Differences: 别的 vs 其他 vs 另外 (other)

Well, the question is in the title... I'd be very thankful for an explanation, but also: Could you give examples of cases where they are and are not interchangeable? Can I use them for "where are ...
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
952 views

What grammar makes 同 品 項 第 2 仵 6折 mean “Buy one, get the second at 60% of base price”?

So in the convenience store, there were bottles of iced coffee with the slogan: 同 品 項 第 2 仵 6折 I was told that this meant: "Buy the first item, get the second item at 60% of base price." I was ...
10
votes
2answers
878 views

How was 辣 used before the Columbian Exchange?

I'm assuming the character (and word/morpheme) 辣 is not a recent creation and goes back far in history. These days it means "chili/chilli", "pepper", "spicy". But chili peppers only came to China ...
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?
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 ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

A Complex Chinese Character

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 ...
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?
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,...
9
votes
8answers
1k views

Is “不會” a correct response to “謝謝”?

I live in Taiwan.There are occasions where I need to thank people, and sometimes they use "不會" to reply my "謝謝". Is this correct and what does "不會" in this occasion mean?
9
votes
2answers
667 views

What's a precise definition of 人家

I've gathered from context, that “人家” can be used like “我” with the following differences: "人家" seems more immature/cute. I often hear it in cartoons or children's shows or said by children in movies ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

Why do both 太 (too) and 过于 (excessively) occur in 外国人有时候太过于开放 (foreigners are sometimes too excessively open)?

A Mandarin Corner YouTube video describes "3 Things Chinese Like about Foreigners". One sentence from this dialogue is the following: 首先我觉得外国人有时候太过于开放。 Shǒuxiān wǒ juédé wàiguórén yǒu shíhòu tài ...
9
votes
3answers
492 views

Quotation Marks (“”) and Angle Quotation Marks (《》)

Based on my recent observation, most people use "" to enclose a quote and use 《》 to enclose the name of a book (or a movie?). However, since I began my Chinese study, I have been learning to use 「」 as ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

Usage of 无 compared with 没有

I just stumbled across a new phrase 无消息。 This is the first time I've encountered 无. How it is used, and how it is different from 没有,as in 没有消息?
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 ...
8
votes
7answers
1k views

早已 and 早就: what's the difference?

To my understanding, both hold the meaning of "already happened long ago". What are the nuances though? Are they interchangeable? Examples: 他早已打定主意了。 (He made up his mind long ago.) 他早就搬走了。 (He ...
8
votes
2answers
826 views

Difference between 接受 and 接收

The first one (接受 jiēshòu) seems far more general and frequent: 我接受邀请。 I accepted the invitation. 他将接受口试。 He will take an oral examination. 他拒绝接受治疗。 He refused treatment. The second one (接收 ...
8
votes
3answers
942 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
640 views

Where is the correct place to use 您 when addressing others?

Almost every foreign text book I've seen mentions 您 as a polite or formal address to others, however I rarely hear it said and rarely see it written except when addressing customers and occasionally ...
8
votes
5answers
3k views

表达 vs. 表现 vs. 表示 vs. 显示

These four words all express (get it, because they all mean express ha ha ha) similar meanings: to express/show/display/manifest/demonstrate/convey/indicate etc. I'm sure there are subtle differences ...
8
votes
3answers
555 views

What is the difference between these two words 叫做 and 叫作?

What is the difference between these two words 叫做 and 叫作? The dictionary definition is quite similar and when I use this term in conversation I am unaware of which character combination I am using.
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.
8
votes
7answers
295 views

Difference between 客气 and 礼貌

On New Practical Chinese Reader 4, workbook, page 7, there's a story about Scott and a Chinese person discussing about manners. The Chinese person says 客气 and 礼貌 are different, and that he/she feels ...
8
votes
1answer
497 views

Correct usage for 跟。。。过不去

This question has two parts: What's the precise meaning of this expression? What is the correct usage? Question (1) I understand it to mean that the person referred to (eg, 跟她过不去) is uncomfortable ...
8
votes
1answer
389 views

“惡” vs “噩” vs “厄”

I have seen these three characters forming the "same" words (I cannot think of a better way to phrase this), such as 惡夢 vs 噩夢 and 惡運 vs 噩運 vs 厄運 As I tried googling for the difference, I ...