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Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Aug 13 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (7,620 points) | 40 views

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Hěn (很), fēi cháng (非常), tè bié (特別), shí fēn (十分), jí (極), gèng (更) and zuì (最) are degree adverbs used to indicate the intensity, degree, or extent of the meaning of a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. These degree adverbs usually precede the constituents that they modify. Concerning pragmatic function, hěn (很), fēi cháng (非常),shí fēn (十分),tè bié (特別) and jí (極) are sorted in ascending order by intensity level. Gèng (更) and zuì (最) are generally used to underline a sense of comparison, which can be translated as “more” and “most” respectively.

1. Adjectives can be divided into two kinds, scalar adjectives and absolute adjectives. All of these degree adverbs can modify scalar adjectives, which denote properties that can be calibrated in degrees. In most cases, hěn(很) and fēi cháng(非常) are interchangeable.

這裡的風景很/非常

zhè lǐ de fēng jǐng hěn/ fēi cháng měi

The view here is very beautiful.

這道題目十分簡單

zhè dào tí mù shí fēn jiǎn dān.

This question is very simple.

我相信你下一次可以做的更

wǒ xiàng xìn nǐ xià yī cì kě yǐ zuò de gèng hǎo.

I believe that you can do better next time!

他講話語速極,聲音也特別

tā jiǎng huà yǔ sù jí kuài,shēng yīn yě tè bié dà.

His speech rate is extremely fast,and his voice is pretty loud.

Absolute adjectives cannot be modified by degree adverbs. For example, expressions like:

*很雪白hěn xuě bái (very snowy white) and *非常fēi cháng cuò (very wrong) are ungrammatical, since these adjectives are used to describe properties that cannot be calibrated in degrees. Structures like *十分簡簡單單shí fēn jiǎn jiǎn dān dān (very simple) and *特別開開心心tè bié kāi kāi xīn xīn (especially happy) are also ungrammatical as the reduplication forms of adjectives already have the semantic effect of strengthening the intensity of the meaning of the adjectives.

answered Aug 13 by Ariel (7,620 points)
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2. These degree adverbs usually modify verbs whose semantic meanings are gradable, such

as most psychological verbs and some modal verbs. Action verbs cannot be modified by these adverbs.

我非常後悔參加了這個派對。

wǒ fēi cháng hòu huǐ cān jiā le zhè gè pài duì.

I deeply regret taking part in this party.

我十分贊成你的觀點。

wǒ shí fēn zàn chéng nǐ de guān diǎn.

I quite agree with you.

比起這家餐廳,我更去那家餐廳。

bǐ qǐ zhè jiā cān tīng ,wǒ gèng xiǎng qù nà jiā cān tīng.

Compared with this restaurant, I prefer that one.

他今天很可能不在家,你最好明天再去拜訪他。

tā jīn tiān hěn kě néng bú zài jiā,nǐ zuì hǎo míng tiān zài qù bài fǎng tā.

He is probably not at home today, you’d better come to visit him tomorrow.

你現在最應該做的事情就是好好休息一下。

nǐ xiàn zài zuì yīng gāi zuò de shì qíng jiù shì hǎo hǎo xiū xī yī xià.

The thing you should do most right now is to take a good rest.

3. In Mandarin Chinese, the general position of a negative particle is before a verb phrase,

adjective or adverb. When occurring with the negative marker “ bù (不)”, these degree adverbs usually precede “ bù (不)” to intensify the degree of negation. Verbs, adjectives and adverbs conveying negative meanings cannot be employed in this form.

我特别degree [不喜歡冬天]。

wǒ tè bié bù xǐ huān dōng tiān.

I especially don’t like winter.

他很degree [不情願地離開了]。

tā hěn bù qíng yuàn de lí kāi le.

He left very reluctantly.

這裏白天很degree [不安全],晚上就更degree [不安全]了。

zhè lǐ bái tiān hěn bù ān quán ,wǎn shàng jiù gèng bù ān quán le.

It is very unsafe here during the day, not to speak of the night.

*我特别不討厭你。

*wǒ tè biébù tǎo yàn nǐ.

*I don’t hate you so much.

*他非常不難過

*tā fēi cháng bù nán guò.

*He is very not sad.

It is worth noticing that hěn (很)and shí fēn (十分) can be preceded by “bù (不)” to convey a sense of euphemistic negation. For instance, in sentence A, the degree adverb hěn (很) has the negative in its scope, but sentence B is of the opposite situation.

A.我很degree [不喜歡你]      I don’t like you to a strong degree.

B.我不 [很degree喜歡你]     It is not that I like you very much.

具體的情況我不十分/很了解,你還是問問其他人吧。

jù tǐ de qíng kuàng wǒ bù shí fēn /hěn liáo jiě ,nǐ hái shì wèn wèn qí tā rén ba.

I am not very clear about the details, you’d better ask somebody else.

4. Fēi cháng(非常), tè bi(特別) and zuì(最) can be used repeatedly to intensify the meaning of the modified words.

我覺得你非常非常善良。

wǒ jué de nǐ fēi cháng fēi cháng shàn liáng.

I think you are very, very kind.

特別特別想见你。(Mostly used in spoken language)

tā tè bié tè bié xiǎng jiàn nǐ.

He particularly wants to see you.

所有人之中,我最最喜歡你。(Mostly used in spoken language)

suǒ yǒu rén zhī zhōng,wǒ zuì zuì xǐ huān nǐ.

Among all the people, I like you the most.

It should be noted that hěn (很) also can be employed in a reduplicated form, but the reduplication strategy for hěn (很) is to reduplicate the modified constituent together with it to express a strengthened meaning.

我等了你很久很久

wǒ děng le nǐ hěn jiǔ hěn jiǔ.

I have been waiting for you for such a long time.

answered Aug 13 by Ariel (7,620 points)
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6.  Jí () can be translated as “ extremely” or “exceedingly”, which is mostly used for description rather than comparison.

他的書法寫得極好,你要多向他學習。

tā de shū fǎ xiě de jí hǎo, nǐ yào duō xiàng tā xué xí.

His calligraphy is extremely good, you should learn from him.

這樣的安排極不合理,必須修改。

zhè yàng de ān pái jí bù hé lǐ, bì xū xiū gǎi.

Such an arrangement is extremely unreasonable, it must be revised.

Jí () and hěn () both can serve as the complement of an adjective to intensify the degree of the property expressed by the adjective. The difference is that jí () needs to be followed by the sentence final particle le (), whereas, hěn () must follow the particle de ():

今天天氣好極了

jīn tiān tiān qì hǎo jí le.

今天天氣好得很

jīn tiān tiān qì hǎo de hěn.

The weather is very great today.

answered Aug 13 by Ariel (7,620 points)
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7. The superlative of an adjective, verb or adverb can be expressed by placing zuì ()

before it, which denotes that within a certain range, some specific properties of a person or a thing exceed others of the same kind. Gèng () which serves as a comparative marker in Chinese, is similar in meaning and usage as “more” in English.

他是我們班每天來得最早的學生。

tā shì wǒ men bān měi tiān lái dé zuì zǎo de xué shēng.

He is the student who comes earliest every day in the class.

最害怕最讨厌的就是蟑螂了。

wǒ zuì hài pà hé zuì tǎo yàn de jiù shì zhāng láng le.

The thing that I fear and hate most is the cockroach.

沒有人比他更喜歡語言學。

méi yǒu rén bǐ tā gèng xǐ huān yǔ yán xué.

No one likes linguistics better than he does.

比起這件外套,那件外套更貴

bǐ qǐ zhè jiàn wài tào, nà jiàn wài tào gèng guì.

Compared with this coat, that one is more expensive.

Also, different from other degree adverbs, zuì() can be used with location words.

最上邊的那本書是我的。

zuì shàng biān de nà běn shū shì wǒ de.

The book on the uppermost is mine.

我們家在村子的最南邊。

wǒ men jiā zài cūn zǐ de zuì nán biān.

Our house locates in the southernmost of the village.

answered Aug 13 by Ariel (7,620 points)
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8.  Commonly, these degree markers are used with gradable entities (adjectives or stative verbs), they serve as the marker for evaluative predication in Chinese and triggers the Degree-Evaluative Construction in creative uses such as the following:

hěn ()N (non-referential and quality-denoting):

今天的打扮很少女

nǐ jīn tiān de dǎ bàn hěn shào nǚ.

You really look like a young girl in the dressing. (you look lovely and young )

A natural context for this expression would be one in which someone praises a girl in a lovely dress. “Shào nǚ(少女)” is a noun means “young girl”. The implicit meaning of such an expression is as follows: the speaker thinks the girl looks extremely young and energetic in the lovely dressing. This kind of dressing represents young girls’ dressing style.

More examples are listed below:

你今天的表現很男人!

nǐ jīn tiān de biǎo xiàn hěn nán rén!

Your behavior today is very manly!

她雖然是個歐洲人,但是她的打扮卻特別東方

tā suī rán shì gè ōu zhōu rén ,dàn shì tā de dǎ bàn què tè bié dōng fāng.

Although she is European, her dressing is very oriental.

Reference:

Charles N. Li, Sandra A. Thompson-Mandarin Chinese_ A Functional Reference Grammar-University of California Press (1989)

Modern Chinese Dictionary (7th Edition) (Chinese Edition) The Commercial Press; 7th edition (September 1, 2016)

answered Aug 13 by Ariel (7,620 points)

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993 questions
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