Chengyu Explanations: 名胜古迹

名胜古迹 refers to places of scenic beauty and historical significance. The following is a detailed explanation of this 成语.

名胜古迹

Characters 名胜古迹
Pin Yin míng shèng gǔ jī
Pleco Definition places of historical interest and scenic beauty
HSK Level HSK 5

Explanation

名胜古迹 are places known for natural beauty and historical significance. They can refer to places in China or abroad. 名胜古迹 derives from the placing together of 名胜 (meaning ‘scenic spot’) and 古迹 (‘historic site’).

Grammatically, 名胜古迹 most commonly operates as a noun. It can be used as the subject or object of a sentence. Although 名胜古迹 usually refers to numerous sites, the measure word 处 can be used to indicate a specific number (e.g. 两处名胜古迹). Informally, 个 may also be used. Furthermore, the classifier 些 can be used to denote ‘some’ or ‘several’ (e.g. 一些名胜古迹).

To describe ‘going to’ or ‘visiting’ a 名胜古迹, the verb 游 (meaning ‘travel’, ‘tour’, ‘rove around’) can be used. The verb 参观 (meaning ‘to visit’) can also be used and may be considered slightly more formal. Common adjectives to describe 名胜古迹 may include 好玩 (amusing, fun), 壮观 (spectacular), 出名 (well-known), etc.

A place, region or country may be described as ‘having’ a 名胜古迹 with the verb 有 (e.g. 美国有很多名胜古迹). This kind of sentence may be translated with ‘there is/are’ in English. When referring to a country or region as part of a noun phrase, the particle 的 is usually used (e.g. 中国的名胜古迹).


Example Sentences

中国有很多名胜古迹,比如长城、黄山、兵马俑等等。
There are many places of historical significance and natural beauty in China, such as the Great Wall, Yellow Mountain, the Terracotta Warriors and so on.

我游过的最壮观的名胜古迹就是北京的故宫。
The most magnificent site of historic beauty I ever visited was the Forbidden City in Beijing.

美国有什么名胜古迹?
What places of historical significant and natural beauty are there in America?

你觉得中国最好玩的名胜古迹是什么?
What do you think is the most interesting place of historical or scenic significance in China?


References and Further Reading

1. Integrated Chinese Textbook (Third Edition) Level 1 Part 2, p. 258-260.
2. New Practical Chinese Reader (2003) Textbook 3, p. 72.
3. 成语词典 (新世纪版2011修订), p. 413.

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What Are 形容词? Are They ‘Adjectives’ or ‘Adjectival Stative Verbs’?

Abstract

Some grammar guides suggest that Chinese does not have “adjectives” in the traditional sense; instead, words which describe properties of things or states of movement (known as 形容词) are categorised as “adjectival stative verbs”. This article will systematically compare how these “adjectives” or “adjectival stative verbs” are manipulated in various sentence patterns to evaluate which title is most fitting. It is concluded that, while there are similarities in usage with other stative verbs, a number of significant differences also exist meaning that the traditional categorisation of these words as “adjectives” is useful afterall.

形容词

Contents

Introduction
Different Interpretations
Examples of 形容词 and ‘Regular Stative Verbs’
Why are there two approaches to understanding 形容词?
Comparing 形容词 and Stative Verbs in Use
a) Using 很 and other Intensifier Adverbs
b) Making Questions with 吗 and the ‘Verb 不 Verb’ Pattern
c) 形容词 Can’t Take Objects
d) Modifying Noun Phrases with 的
e) Verb Aspect and Time
f) The 比 Pattern
g) Using 更 and 最
h) Reduplication Patterns
Summary
References and Further Reading


Introduction

In English, adjectives are words that describe the properties of things or people (e.g. ‘tall’, ‘blue’, ‘exciting’, ‘new’) or the states of movements or actions (e.g. ‘fast’, ‘steady’). An adjective can be used before a noun (e.g. ‘the big event’, ‘my clever cat’) or it can be used with the verb ‘to be’ (e.g. ‘the event was big’, ‘my cat is clever’). To show a comparison, some adjectives use the suffix ‘er’ (e.g. ‘taller’, ‘steadier’) while some adjectives use ‘more’ or ‘less’ (e.g. ‘more expensive’, ‘less remarkable’). To show a superlative, some adjectives use the suffix ‘est’ (e.g. ‘tallest’, steadiest’) while some adjectives use ‘most’ or ‘least’ (e.g. ‘most expensive’, ‘least remarkable’.)

Of course, Chinese differs significantly from English in its use of adjectives. The Chinese word for adjective is 形容词. 形容词 often use 的 to connect with a noun, and (in general) do not use 是 to link a subject. Chinese does not have suffixes to describe comparative and superlative 形容词, but instead uses 更 and 最 respectively. In addition, there are a number of sentence patterns to express comparisons (e.g. the 比 pattern) or to otherwise manipulate adjectives (e.g. the 越来越 pattern).


Different Interpretations

Many textbooks and grammar guides state that Chinese has adjectives like any other language, but concede that, of course, there are many differences in usage. For example, the New Practical Chinese Reader and Integrated Chinese textbook series both explain the various ways “adjectives” are manipulated. In most native Chinese grammar guides, adjectives are called 形容词, literally meaning ‘description words’.

However, other textbooks and grammar guides argue that Chinese does not have adjectives. 形容词, according to these approaches, are in fact a special kind of verb. Schaum’s Outlines Chinese Grammar states that there are three main types of verbs: Activity Verbs, Achievement Verbs and Stative Verbs. 形容词, according to this approach, are a sub-set of Stative Verbs called “adjectival stative verbs”. The Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar takes a similar approach, but give 形容词 the title “adjectival verbs”.

A learner of Chinese may wish to know the answers to the following questions: Why are there two different approaches to understanding 形容词? What are the implications of adopting each approach? Which definition of 形容词 – namely, ‘Adjective’ or ‘Adjectival (Stative) Verb’ – is most helpful for learners of Chinese?


Examples of 形容词 and ‘Regular Stative Verbs’

Let’s first compare examples of 形容词 and ‘Regular Stative Verbs’.

形容词 / Adjective / Adjectival Stative Verb Regular Stative Verb
good

big

expensive

quick

简单 simple

舒服 comfortable

to love

to be afraid

to understand

喜欢 to like

愿意 to be willing (to do something)

尊敬 to respect

Please note that both 形容词 and ‘Regular Stative Verb’ are usually made up of either one or two characters.


Why are there two approaches to understanding 形容词?

There are two main reasons why linguists prefer the term ‘Adjectival Stative Verb’ instead of ‘Adjective’ to describe 形容词. One reason is 形容词 can sometimes be used in a similar manner to Regular Stative Verbs, in a way that is not easily compared to the use of adjectives in English and many other languages. Another reason is that 形容词 do not need a copula verb (i.e. ‘to be’ in English or 是 in Chinese) to link the subject, although the verb 是 may be used with adjectives in some sentence patterns. These points will be elaborated on in more depth later.


Comparing 形容词 and Stative Verbs in Use

However, things get complex when we understand that 形容词 do not always function in the same way as Regular Stative Verbs. In fact, there are many instances when 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs operate in completely different grammatical ways.

The two different approaches can be visualised in the following ways. According to the first approach, 形容词 are Adjectives that share some grammatical patterns with Regular Stative Verbs. According to the second approach, 形容词 are a special kind of Stative Verb, although there are patterns where they operate differently from Regular Stative Verbs.

differentapproachestoadjectives

Of course, both approaches are merely differing categorisations of the same grammatical phenomena. It seems to me that deciding which approach is most useful for learners of Chinese depends on whether differences between 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs are emphasised (the first approach) or whether the similarities between 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs are emphasised (the second approach.)

Let’s compare 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs to evaluate which approach is best.


a) Using 很 and other Intensifier Adverbs

Beginner learners are taught that one major distinction between English and Chinese is that there doesn’t need to be a copula verb (i.e. ‘to be’ in English or 是 in Chinese) to link a 形容词 to a subject. Instead, the adverb 很 is usually used. Although 很 is sometimes translated as “very”, this is unnecessary as the primary function of 很 in this sentence is grammatical (i.e. as a linking word between the subject and adjective.) In a negative sentence, 很 is not used and the negating word 不 goes in its place.

他很高。
He is tall.

我朋友不开心。
My friend isn’t happy.

很 can also be used with Regular Stative Verbs. However, in this sentence, 很 is not necessary in a grammatical sense. Therefore, 很 can be translated as “really”. In the negative sentence, 不 is used to negate the Stative Verb, but unlike with 形容词, the Stative Verb can retain the adverb 很.

他愿意搬到北京上班。
He’s willing to move to Beijing for work.

他很愿意搬到北京上班。
He’s really willing to move to Beijing for work.

他不愿意搬到北京上班。
He’s not willing to move to Beijing for work.

他很不愿意搬到北京上班。
He’s really not willing to move to Beijing for work.

In spoken Chinese, 好 can be used in place of 很 before 形容词. This colloquial expression is very common, although it is more informal and used less often for serious topics. Often 好 is used with words that have a positive, or at least neutral meaning. Using 好 in this way is less commonly seen with Regular Stative Verbs; in most cases 很 is preferred.

好开心!
I’m happy!

我很喜欢那部电影。
I really liked that movie.

From the table below we can see that uses of 形容词 are more limited than Regular Stative Verbs in respect to the adverb 很.

形容词  example: Regular Stative Verb: 喜欢
Without -* 他喜欢。He likes it.
Using 他很高。He’s tall. 他很喜欢。He really likes it.
Using 他不高。He isn’t tall. 他不喜欢。He doesn’t like it.
Using and 他很不喜欢。He really doesn’t like it.

*Note that while the sentence 他高 is also grammatically correct, I have omitted it from this table since its meaning derivies from the comparison sentence using 比 (see ‘The 比 Pattern’ below.)

Whilst 很 is arguably the default modifier for 形容词, other adverbs describing intensity can be used. For example, 太,非常,特别,真,挺 and 比较 are more commonly used in spoken Chinese while 极其,尤其 and 相当 are used in more formal language. Notice that the English translation of the adverbs in these examples may be very different for 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs.

形容词  example: Regular Stative Verb: 喜欢
Using 特别 他特别高。He’s especially tall. 他特别喜欢。He particularly likes it.
Using 比较 他比较高。He’s relatively tall. 他比较喜欢。He likes it to some extent.

Things start to get more difficult when negation is involved. Different intensity adverbs have different word orders when negating 形容词 or Regular Stative Verbs. Notice, for instance, that 不 is usually placed before other adverbs except when 不 is placed after the adverb 真. Also, some adverbs sounds peculiar when negated (e.g. 比较).

Adverb + 形容词 Negated Adverb + 形容词 Adverb + Regular Stative Verb Negated Adverb + Regular Stative Verb
非常 他非常胖。He’s extremely fat. 他非常不高。He’s really not fat at all. (他非常矮 is more commonly used). 她非常爱我。She loves me a lot. 她非常不爱我。She really doesn’t love me much at all.
他太胖了。He’s too fat. 他不太胖。He’s not too fat. 她太爱我了。She loves me too much. 她不太爱我。She doesn’t really love me.
比较 他比较胖。He’s pretty fat. 他比较爱我。She loves me to some extent.
他真胖。He’s really fat. 他真不胖。He’s really not fat. 她真爱我。She really loves me. 她真不爱我。She really doesn’t love me.

With regard to intensifier adverbs, students should study each adverb in turn and be aware that there are exceptions in usage. Whilst grammatically, 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs are similar in their use of intensifier adverbs, 很 is a significant exception which learners should master.


b) Making Questions with 吗 and the ‘Verb 不 Verb’ Pattern

As far as making questions are concerned, 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs have practically the same grammatical structure. Both can be made into simple ‘yes-no’ questions with the particle 吗.

火车票很贵吗?
Was the train ticket expensive?

你懂吗?
Do you understand?

In addition, both can utilise the ‘Verb 不 Verb’ Pattern. If the 形容词 or Regular Stative Verb has two characters, then the pattern A不AB can be used (where AB represents the two character word.) Notice that 很 is not used in this sentence pattern.

火车票贵不贵?
Was the train ticket expensive?

你懂不懂?
Do you understand?

图书馆安静不安静?
Is the library quiet?

他喜不喜欢看书?
Does he like reading?


c) 形容词 Can’t Take Objects

One major difference between 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs is that 形容词 can’t take objects. Therefore 形容词, if defined as a kind of Stative Verb, are intransitive. Notice in the examples below the verb 爱 taking the object 我, and the verb 尊敬 taking the object 老师.

我女朋友爱我。
My girlfriend loves me.

全班的学生都尊敬老师。
The whole class respects their teacher.


d) Modifying Noun Phrases with 的

Another similarity between 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs is that they can both modify noun phrases with 的. Notice that using 的 with 形容词 and using 的 with Regular Stative Verbs utilises very different grammatical structures in English.

我会做很简单的菜。
I can cook simple dishes.

我喜欢的那本书很有意思。
The book that I like is really interesting.

However, it should be noted that single character 形容词 often do not use 的. For example, we say 好书 ‘a good book’ and 新车 ‘a new car’. There are numerous exceptions to this rule, however, which apparently can only be learned through exposure to the language. (Confusingly, 的 can also sometimes be used with single character 形容词 to emphasise the adjectival meaning.)

In contrast, both single character and double character Regular Stative Verbs usually must use 的 to modify a noun.


e) Verb Aspect and Time

The situation gets increasingly complex when verb aspect (e.g. uses of 了 and 过) are compared.

Let’s start with the 了 particle. Unlike other verbs, both 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs can not use 了 to show completion. However, 形容词 can use 了 at the end of the sentence to show a change of state. Regular Stative Verbs also can use the change of state 了 particle.

外面热了。
It’s hot outside now.

我忘记了我女朋友生日,所以她非常生气。
I forgot my girlfriend’s birthday so now she’s really angry.

你不喜欢我了吗?
Don’t you like me anymore?

懂了。
I understand now.

Some grammar guides state that Regular Stative Verbs cannot use 过 to show experience, but in some situations it is acceptable. However, to the best of my knowledge, 形容词 can never use 过.

我以前爱过他。
I used to love him.

Both 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs can use adverbs expressing time (e.g. 以前,以后,现在,当时) as well as time expressions using 的时候.

我以前很穷。
I used to be poor.

高中的时候,我挺胖的,不过还是能够进入足球队。
During High School, I was pretty fat, but I was still able to join the football team.


f) The 比 Sentence

Only 形容词 can be used as the main comparative element in the 比 pattern.

她比我高多了。
She is much taller than me.

It seems the only exception would be a verb phrase using 得 to form an adjectival compliment, usually with 多 or 少.

我老板喝的酒没有我喝得多。
My boss didn’t drink as much alcohol as me.

Some students are confused by the sentence 他高, and may ask why there is no 很 adverb to link the subject to the 形容词 (see ‘Using 很 and other Intensifier Adverbs’ above). In fact, 他高 is a shortened form of the sentence 他比别人高, where the noun which is compared with is omitted from the sentence.

中国人很多。
There are many Chinese people.

中国人多。
China is more populous (than other countries.)


g) Using 更 and 最

The adverbs 更 (expressing a comparative meaning of ‘more’) and 最 (expressing the superlative meaning of ‘the most’) can be used with both 形容词 and other Stative Verbs. Notice that the translation in English may be radically different in each usage.

在我们班,她中文说得最好。
In our class, she speaks the best Chinese.

我最喜欢吃火锅。
The thing I like to eat most is hot pot.

Note that the following uses of 更 are based on the comparative 比 sentence (see ‘The 比 Sentence’ above).

我觉得你比她的中文说得更好。
I think you speak Chinese even better than she does.

烧烤更好吃。
Barbeque is even tastier!


h) Reduplication Patterns

In Chinese, some words can be ‘reduplicated’. However, the reduplication of 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs not only uses different patterns, but also results in different meanings.

形容词 can be reduplicated for several reasons; namely, to add emphasis, to describe something that is “cute” or to describe it in a “cute” manner, or for literary flair. Reduplication takes the pattern AA的 for single character words (e.g. 高高的,大大的) and AABB的 for double character words (e.g. 开开心心的,安安静静的).

胖胖的小狗太可爱了!
The chubby puppy is so cute!

那个女孩安安静静的。
That girl is quiet.

Regular Stative Verbs are reduplicated much less frequently, and many verbs are never reduplicated at all. The reduplication pattern, in contrast to 形容词 duplication, is ABAB (e.g. 喜欢喜欢). Reduplication of Regular Stative Verbs will almost inevitably sound “cutesy” or “girly”. Learners of Chinese should be careful when reduplicating both 形容词 and Stative Verbs, since in many instances reduplication may sound unnatural to native speakers.


Summary

Let’s get an overview of the differences between 形容词 and Regular Stative Verbs.

形容词 / Adjective / Adjectival Stative Verb Regular Stative Verb Is the usage similar or different?
Using is a default particle which links the Subject and 形容词. means “very” or “really”. Different.
Can replace ? Mostly yes. Mostly no. Different.
Can other ‘intensifier adverbs’ be used? Mostly yes. Mostly yes. Similar (but with exceptions.)
Can and the VV pattern be used? Yes. Yes. Similar.
Can objects be taken? No. Mostly yes. Different.
Can noun phrases be modified with ? Yes, but single and double character 形容词 may differ in using . Yes. Similar (but with exceptions.)
Can (showing completion) be used? No. No. Similar.
Can (showing change of state) be used? Yes. Yes. Similar.
Can (showing experience) be used? No. Mostly no. Similar (but with exceptions.)
Can time phrases be used? Yes. Yes. Similar.
Can the sentence be used? Yes. No. Different.
Can and be used? Yes. Yes. Similar.
Can reduplication be used? Yes, but patterns and uses are distinct from other verbal reduplication. Mostly no. Different.

In conclusion, it is clear that although in many circumstances 形容词 do operate similarly to Regular Stative Verbs, there are a significant number of exceptions. In light of these exceptions, I consider the first approach, where 形容词 are categorised as distinct ‘Adjectives’ which sometimes share patterns with ‘Regular Stative Verbs’, to be a reasonable approach.

Ultimately, however, the title of ‘Adjective’ or ‘Adjectival (Stative) Verb’ is to some extent an arbitrary grammatical categorisation. Finding an approach that makes the most sense for each learner is more important. Alternatively, students could abandon the notion of ‘Adjectives’ or ‘Adjectival (Stative) Verbs’ altogether and simply refer to these words by their Chinese name: 形容词.


References and Further Reading

1. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_adjectives
2. Chinese Grammar Wiki, http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Adjectives
3. Shaum’s Outlines: Chinese Grammar, p. 49-63.
4. Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammer, p. 56-58.
5. Practical Grammar Guide for Foreigners, p. 48-57.
6. The Code of Chinese Adjectives and Adverbs, p. 3-74.
7. New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook 3, p. 50.
8. New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook 4, p. 103-104, 121-122.
9. Integrated Chinese Textbook 1, p. 50.

What is the difference between 怕,害怕,恐怕,可怕,恐怖 and 恐惧?

Chinese has a number of words related to ‘fear’ and ‘being afraid’. Let’s look at these words in detail to see how they differ from each other.

害怕

恐怕

可怕

恐怖

恐惧

Pinyin hài pà kǒng pà kě pà kǒng bù kǒng jù
HSK Level HSK 3 HSK 4 HSK 5 HSK 6 HSK 6
Pleco Definitions 1. to be afraid
2. to fear
3. to dread
4. to be unable
to endure
5. perhaps
1. to be afraid
2. to be scared
1. fear
2. to dread
3. I’m afraid that…
4. Perhaps
5. Maybe
1. awful
2. dreadful
3. fearful
4. formidable
5. frightful
6. scary
7. hideous
8. horrible
9. terrible
10. terribly
1. terrible
2. frightful
3. frightening
4. terror
5. terrorist
1. fear
2. dread
3. phobia

怕

As we can see from the above table, the character 怕 is present in many of these words. Surprisingly, it’s not included in the HSK word lists as a standalone word although it is often used this manner.

怕 is commonly translated as ‘to be afraid’ or ‘to fear’. The word implies the speaker feels agitated or nervous as a result of something fearful. It usually takes an object.

我怕狗。
I’m afraid of dogs.

怕 can also mean ‘to worry’. In this sense, it is synonymous with the verb 担心.

堵车了,我怕我赶不上飞机。
There’s a traffic jam. I’m anxious I’m going to miss the plane.

怕 can be used to describe an aversion to something. In this sense, the meaning is an exaggeration and can even be slightly playful in tone.

夏天还穿毛衣啊?你怕冷吗?
It’s summer and you’re still wearing a jumper? Are you afraid of the cold?

怕 can also be used as an adverb, but this meaning is not related to the idea of ‘fear’. When used as an adverb, 怕 means ‘approximately’. This usage is not so common. (An approximation is more often expressed with 大概.)

这孩子怕有十二三岁了。
This child is about twelve or thirteen years old.


害怕

The two character verb 害怕 is practically synonymous with the verb 怕, although 害怕 often doesn’t take an object.

这是我第一次坐飞机,我很害怕!
This is my first time flying, I’m really afraid!

Note that both 怕 and 害怕 can take intensifier complements (such as 极了 and 得很.)

看牙医让我儿子害怕极了。
My son is absolutely terrified of going to the dentist.


恐怕

恐怕 has a meaning very distinct from 害怕. As a verb, it can express ‘worry’ or ‘misgivings’ about something.

妈妈恐怕孩子走错路。
The mother worried that her child had lost his way.

恐怕 is often used as an adverb meaning ‘I’m afraid that…’ or ‘perhaps’. Notice that this meaning is not about fear per se, but rather describes the possibility of a situation that may be considered unfortunate. It is often used at the beginning of a sentence, expressing the speaker’s view on a matter. 恐怕 can also be shortened to 怕 in this adverbial meaning.

他生病了,恐怕他今天不能上课。
I’m afraid he’s ill so he won’t be able to come to class today.


可怕

可怕  is an adjective which can describe something that ‘makes people scared’. It is an informal expression more commonly used in spoken Chinese.

王经理很可怕,开会的时候经常骂人。
Manager Wang is scary. He often shouts at people during meetings.


恐怖

The adjective 恐怖 can describe a method or atmosphere that is ‘frightening’ or ‘terrible’. Notice that it describes a thing or situation that is terrifying, and not the feelings of a person.

这部电影好恐怖啊,我不敢看了!
This movie is too frightening, I can’t watch it anymore.

The noun 恐怖 can be translated as ‘terror’. As a noun, 恐怖 is not often used as a standalone word. 恐怖 is often seen in other noun phrases such as 恐怖主义 (terrorism), 恐怖主义者 or 恐怖分子(terrorist), 恐怖组织 (terrorist organization), 恐怖袭击 (terrorist attack), 恐怖片 and 恐怖电影 (horror movie).


恐惧

At first glance, 恐惧 and 恐怖 might appear similar. However, whilst 恐怖 can be used as a noun or an adjective, 恐惧 usually cannot be used as a noun. The main difference, however, is that 恐怖 refers to the object that causes fear, whilst 恐惧 refers to the psychological state of a person who is afraid.

他的脸上流露出恐惧的神色。
His face revealed an expression of fear.


Summary

The following table summarizes the grammatical uses of each word, according to 现代汉语规范词典 (the Standard Dictionary of Modern Chinese):

  害怕 恐怕 可怕 恐怖 恐惧
Verb
Yes Yes Yes
Noun Yes
Adjective Yes Yes Yes
Adverb Yes Yes

References and Further Reading

1. 汉语近义词学习手册, p.118-119.
2. 现代汉语规范词典, p.978 (怕), p.512 (害怕), p.748 (可怕), p.758 (恐怕, 恐怖 and 恐惧).
3. Chinesepod, https://chinesepod.com/lessons/describing-fear
4. iCIBA句库, http://dj.iciba.com/%E6%81%90%E6%80%95-1.html

What is the difference between 胡说,乱说,废话 and 瞎说?

Chinese has a number of words meaning ‘nonsense’ or ‘speak nonsense’, but what exactly is the difference in usage?

胡说

乱说

废话

瞎说

Pinyin hú shuō luàn shuō fèi huà xiā shuō
HSK Level HSK 5 n/a HSK 5 n/a
Pleco Definitions 1. to talk nonsense; drivel
2. nonsense
1. to speak carelessly or foolishly
2. to talk in a scatterbrained way
3. to talk nonsense
4. to make irresponsible remarks
1. superfluous words
2. nonsense
3. rubbish
1. to talk groundlessly or irresponsibly
2. to talk nonsense

There are also a number of set phrases and 成语 which have meanings related to ‘nonsense’, such as 胡言乱语,胡说八道 and 瞎扯蛋. Let’s look at each of these words and phrases in turn.


胡说

胡说 is most commonly used as a verb. The object of 胡说 can be 话 (i.e. 胡说话 ‘to speak nonsense’). This term apparently derives from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 AD), when the people from the central plains of China referred to the language of the non-Han nomadic peoples (胡人) in the north and west of China as 胡说. Since their language was largely unintelligible to the Han Chinese, the association with ‘nonsense’ arose.

In modern spoken Chinese, 胡 is an adverb which means ‘recklessly’, ‘foolishly’ or ‘wildly’. Therefore, the kind of nonsense referred to by 胡说 is often some kind of exaggeration or overstatement.

别胡说了。
Don’t talk nonsense!

你他妈的在胡说些什么?
What the fuck are you talking about?

胡说八道 is a set phrase which can function as a verb, meaning nonsense that is ‘without foundation or justification’.

他很喜欢胡说八道。
He likes talking nonsense.


乱说

The verb 乱说 has a very similar usage to 胡说, and can also use 话 as its object (i.e. 乱说话 ‘to speak nonsense’). 乱 is an adjective which means ‘in disorder’, ‘in a mess’ or ‘in confusion’. The kind of nonsense referred to by 乱说 might be considered irresponsible and could have unintended consequences.

他每次喝多了以后,都跟酒吧里每个人乱说话。
Every time he gets drunk, he talks nonsense with everyone in the bar.

The set phrase 乱说乱动 can also be used as an verb to describe someone who ‘talks and acts in an irresponsible way’.


废话

Unlike 胡说 and 乱说, 废话 is more commonly used as a noun. It can be used with the verb 说 (i.e. 说废话 ‘to speak nonsense’). 废 is an adjective which can mean ‘useless’ or ‘waste’. Therefore the kind of nonsense referred to by 废话 is language that is excessive and unnecessary. Colloquially, 废话 could be also translated as ‘bullshit’ (American English slang).

废话!
Nonsense!

别说废话!
Don’t talk nonsense!

我受够了你的废话!
I’ve had enough of your bullshit!


瞎说

Like 胡说 and 乱说, 瞎说 is most commonly used as a verb and can use 话 as its object (i.e. 瞎说话 ‘to speak nonsense’). The adverb 瞎 can mean ‘blind’, ’groundlessly’, ‘foolishly’ or ‘to no purpose’. The implication of 瞎说 is that this kind of nonsense is ‘without foundation’ and ‘without purpose’.

别瞎说了!
Don’t be ridiculous!


胡言乱语

胡言乱语 is a 成语 which can function as a verb, noun or adjective. 胡乱 means ‘reckless’ or ‘absent-minded’, and 语言 refers to language. As a verb, 胡言乱语 means ‘to talk nonsense’ or ‘to babble nonsense’. As a noun, it means ‘crazy and unfounded ramblings’. 胡言乱语 can also mean utterances that are completely nonsensical (i.e. indecipherable speech, due to a lack of linguistic coherence.)

为什么有人喝醉酒后会胡言乱语?
Why do some people talk nonsense when they get drunk?

我爷爷年纪很大,他经常胡言乱语。
My grandfather is very old. He often goes off on crazy and unfounded ramblings.


Other Related Terms

虾扯蛋image瞎扯蛋 also means ‘to talk irresponsibly’ or ‘to talk nonsense’. Literally, 瞎扯蛋 means ‘to pull on your testicles aimlessly’. It’s not quite profanity, but it’s not really a polite expression either. 虾扯蛋 (literally meaning ‘a shrimp pulls an egg’) is a homophone of 瞎扯蛋 and might be considered an internet meme. If someone is talking nonsense online, you could post a picture of 虾扯蛋. I wouldn’t recommend using these terms.

瞎扯 is a less vulgar term than 瞎扯蛋, although the association is clear. 瞎扯, used as a verb, also means ‘to talk groundlessly or irresponsibly’ and ‘to talk nonsense’, but it can also mean ‘to talk at random about anything under the sun’, ‘to waffle’ and ‘to natter’. It is used much less frequently than other terms discussed above.


Summary

胡说,乱说 and 瞎说 all have a similar meaning of speech that is ‘without basis’ and can more-or-less be used interchangeably. 胡说 appears to be the most commonly used expression. These verbs are often used in the structure 别 + 胡说/乱说/瞎说, which can be used to respond to a perceived utterance of nonsense. 废话, in contrast, is usually used as a noun.

Other terms such as 胡言乱语 and 胡说八道 can add emphasis and literary colour. 胡言乱语 is notable because it can describe speech that is linguistically incoherent.


References and Further Reading

1. 新世纪版 成语词典 (2011修订), p.270.
2. Baidu Dictionary, http://dict.baidu.com/s?wd=胡说八道
3. Baidu Encyclopedia, http://baike.baidu.com/view/1741.htm
4. Baidu Q&A Forum, http://zhidao.baidu.com/link?url=CNj5sSOOgKsVNqjHAqKv9F9ysA24A0OFNxOQK-wD9dLXM38ArACjcGdrlIE7VjBNSGr1xEjHGa9lyvFMGieLDq

“Separable Verbs” – A Misleading and Unnecessary Concept

Abstract

Many textbooks and dictionaries published in China and abroad discuss “Separable Verbs” (离合词) as grammatically distinct from Verb-Object Phrases (短语). Although the idea of “Separable Verbs” may arguably help beginners understand differences between English and Chinese verb manipulation, I argue that “Separable Verbs” and Verb-Object Phrases are essentially the same thing and intermediate learners should abandon this distinction to better understand the Chinese language on its own terms.

离合词

Contents

Introduction
List of Commonly Cited “Separable Verbs”
Explanations of “Separable Verbs”
Comparison of “Separable Verbs” and Verb-Object Phrases
Sources of Potential Confusion for Users of “Separable Verbs”
a) What Constitutes a “Separable Verb” is a Subjective Choice
b) Verbs Don’t Always Need an Object
c) Double-Character Verbs
d) Comparisons with Phrasal Verbs in English
e) Grammatical Exceptions
Summary
Disclaimer
References and Further Reading


Introduction

If a beginner student asks their teacher, “How do you say ‘swim’ in Chinese?”, the teacher will probably answer with the word 游泳. This is a fair translation, but if this word is used in a sentence it is likely that the two characters of 游泳 will be separated by other characters, or other manipulations of the verb may occur.

你喜欢游泳吗?
Do you like swimming?

他游了很长时间的泳。
He swam for a long time.

他没有游过泳。
He has never been swimming.

游游泳吧!
Have a swim!


List of Commonly Cited “Separable Verbs”

These are some of the “Separable Disyllabic Verbs” introduced by the New Practical Chinese Reader Textbook in chapter 27.

游泳 to swim

吃饭 to eat

起床 to get up

睡觉 to sleep

开学 to start a new term of school

上课 to have a class

发烧 to get a fever

看病 to see a doctor

住院 to be hospitalised

开车 to drive

打的 to get a taxi

说话 to speak

聊天 to chat


Explanations of “Separable Verbs”

In the translations above, many of these words would be considered intransitive verbs in English, meaning to they do not require an object (e.g. chat, speak, drive, eat, swim). Other verbs are best considered transitive verbs in English, meaning that they usually require an object (e.g. to get a taxi, to see a doctor, to have a class).

Let’s take 吃饭 as an example. Whilst 吃饭 is usually simply translated in English as ‘eat’, we could also say ‘eat a meal’. In this way, 吃 is the verb and 饭 is the object (饭 literally means ‘rice’, an abbreviation of the word 米饭). In reality, the word 吃饭 is a Verb-Object Phrase made up of 吃 and 饭 together.

Since rice has historically been the staple food of Chinese-speaking people, the word 饭 has been associated with ‘food’ generally, so 吃饭 could also be translated as ‘eat food’. But in English, we usually wouldn’t say ‘eat food’, we would just say ‘eat’. Hence, 吃饭 is simply ‘eat’.

So far, so simple.

But now let’s look at 聊天, for example. This word can not be so easily imagined as a Verb-Object Phrase by beginner learners of Chinese, because the meaning of ‘chat’ is more abstract. For 聊天, what could the object of the Verb-Object Phrase be? Certainly, you can say ‘have a chat’ in English, but 聊 doesn’t mean ‘have’ and 天 doesn’t mean ‘chat’. (In fact, 天 on its own means ‘day’, but this usage of ‘day’ is completely unrelated to the word 聊天 or ‘chat’ in this context.)

The concept of “Separable Verbs” is used to help a beginner overcome the initial confusion related to the conception of abstract objects which do not have a direct translation in English. Some explanations of “Separable Verbs”, whilst implying that they are in some way ‘special’ or ‘different’ without defining exactly why, may also describe them as composed of a Verb-Object structure.


Comparison of “Separable Verbs” and Verb-Object Phrases

In this article, I argue that “Separable Verb” is a misleading term and that so-called “Separable Verbs” are, in theory and in practise, exactly the same as other Verb-Object Phrases.

Let’s compare some “Separable Verbs” and other Verb-Object Phrases in various aspects and sentences patterns, to see if their grammatical use is different.

“Separable Verb” examples Verb-Object Phrase examples
Expressing Change of State with 你吃饭了吗?Have you eaten?

我起床了。

I’ve got up.

你吃晚饭了吗?Have you eaten dinner?

我买东西了。

I have bought some stuff.

Expressing Experience with 你住过院吗?Have you ever stayed in the hospital?

他开过车。

He has driven before.

你坐过飞机吗?Have you ever taken a plane?

他喝过酒。

He has drunk alcohol before.

Expressing “a little” with 一点 吃一点吧。Eat a little. 喝一点吧。Drink a little.
Expressing the Continuous Aspect with 她在唱歌。She’s singing. 她在买菜。She’s buying vegetables.
Expressing Duration with a Time Duration Phrase 她已经开了很长时间车了。She’s already been driving for a long time. 她已经看了很长时间电视了。She’s already been watching TV for a long time.
Modifying the Object 他生了很大气。He got really angry.

我朋友帮了我的忙。

My friend helped me.

他吃了很多苹果。He ate a lot of apples.

我朋友骑了我的自行车。

My friend rode my bicycle.

Notice that in all the examples in the table above, the only thing that fundamentally differs between the “Separable Verb” examples and the Verb-Object Phrase examples is the English translation. The grammatical structures, as far as the Chinese language is concerned, is the same.


Sources of Potential Confusion for Users of “Separable Verbs”

Here are some reasons why I think the idea of “Separable Verbs” is misleading, as well as some additional causes of verb-related confusion.

a) What Constitutes a “Separable Verb” is a Subjective Choice

Some teachers suggest that “Separable Verbs” are a Verb-Object Phrase with a “default” object. For example, 饭 could be described as the default object of 吃 in 吃饭, while 觉 could similarly be described as the default object of 睡 in 睡觉.

But the notion of a ‘default’ verb is entirely subjective, therefore which words are defined as “Separable Verbs” and which verbs are commonly seen Verb-Object Phrases are also subjective choices, and not based on a distinctive grammatical features.

For instance, consider the Chinese word for the English word ‘drink’. This word isn’t considered to be a “Separable Verb” in any textbook I’ve seen, although common Verb-Object Phrases might be 喝水 (drink water), 喝东西 (drink something), 喝酒 (drink alcohol), 喝茶 (drink tea), etc. Why is 吃饭 usually called a “Separable Verb” when 喝水 isn’t? There is no objective reason why some Verb-Object Compounds are given the special title “Separable Verb”, whilst others are not.

b) Verbs Don’t Always Need an Object

Some teachers and textbooks, in an effort to emphasise that in many sentences Chinese verbs take objects more often than in comparable English sentences, lead students to believe that verbs should always take an object. But in many Chinese sentences, particularly sentences where context is clear, the object in a Verb-Object Phrase is often unnecessary. This is true also for “Separable Verbs” too, of course, which can lead to additional confusion.

你多吃一点。
Eat a little more!

她睡了很长时间。
She slept for a long time.

However, many textbooks explain that “Separable Verbs” cannot take an object. This is misleading. “Separable Verbs” cannot take an object because in reality there is already an object as part of the so-called “Separable Verb”.

In fact, stating that “Separable Verbs” are different from other Verb-Object Phrases makes Chinese grammar unnecessarily complex. In other words, it is easier to understand that ‘some objects are abstract and can be omitted in some sentence patterns’ than to create a new class of verbs, distinct from other Verb-Object Phrases, but not fully define what makes them special.

c) Double-Character Verbs

One source of confusion is the difference between Double-Character Verbs and Verb-Object Phrases (including so-called “Separable Verbs”). Double-Character Verbs (e.g. 离开,浪费,了解,发现) cannot be separated in the same way as Verb-Object Phrases, because both characters constitute the whole meaning of the word. Moreover, many Double-Character Verbs can also take an object.

你想离开吗?
Do you want to leave?

你想离开北京吗?
Do you want to leave Beijing?

Confusingly, sometimes Double-Character Verbs can be abbreviated to their first character, yet still retain the same meaning. In some sentences, this abbreviation does not require an object, but in other sentences an object can be used.

我每天学习中文。
I study Chinese everyday.

他学了两个小时。
He studied for two hours.

他喜欢学习法语吗?
Do you like studying French?

Many textbooks and dictionaries do not differentiate between so called “Separable Verbs” (which are, in fact, Verb-Object Phrases) and Double-Character Verbs. This is a huge problem for learners, who will not be able to confidently manipulate verbs unless the distinction is clear.

My advice for students is to always ask teachers whether a newly introduced two character word is in fact a Double-Character Verb or a Verb-Object Phrase.

d) Phrasal Verbs in English

Additional confusion is created by some explanations which compare phrasal verbs in English to “Separable Verbs” (for example, the Chinese Grammar Wiki). A phrasal verb in English is a verb phrase with two or more words; for example, ‘pick up’, ‘put down’, ‘take away’, ‘move over’, ‘turn off’. Usually, a phrasal verb in English involves a verb followed by a preposition or directional element; an object can sometimes be placed between these two parts of the phrasal verbs.

Turn the TV off.
He took the car away.
Did you pick the newspaper up?

However, these kinds of sentences are entirely different to “Separable Verbs”, which are in essence Verb-Object Phrases, not Verb-Prepositional phrases. In Chinese, verb phrases that involve prepositions are usually expressed using entirely different grammatical formations; namely, Verb Compliments sometimes known as Coverbs (e.g. 到,上,掉,下来,过去,回来) can follow the verb, in sentences which often involve the 把 construction as well.

把电视关掉。
Turn the TV off.

你把报纸拿起来吗?
Did you pick the newspaper up?

Verb-Object Phrases (including so-called “Separable Verbs”) are fundamentally different from phrasal verbs in English, and it is misleading to compare them.

e) Grammatical Exceptions

As in any language, there are sometimes exceptions in actual spoken language that cannot be explained by generalised grammar rules.

Take 结婚, for example. Many textbooks state that 结婚 is a “Separable Verb”, so therefore any modifiers should be placed between these two characters. However, this is not always the case.

我结婚两年了。
I’ve been married for two years.

The textbook grammar pattern from both Verb-Object Phrases and “Separable Verbs” suggests that the Time Duration Phrase should be placed between the two characters in the sentence, but this formation sounds unnatural to most Chinese speakers. However, other separations of 结婚 such as 结过婚 and 结了婚 are possible. There are no rules, to my knowledge, that can explain exceptions like this one.

Don’t let exceptions such as these obfuscate a fundamental fact: Verb-Object Phrases usually function in a predictable grammatical fashion, and exceptions exist for both so-called “Separable Verbs” and Verb-Object Phrases alike. Significantly, I haven’t come across any exceptions that justify making “Separable Verbs” into their own distinct class of verbs, different from other Verb-Object Phrases.


Summary

In conclusion, when we analyse the Chinese language on its own terms, we can see no discernible difference between so-called “Separable Verbs” and regular Verb-Object Phrases.

The only benefit of the idea of “Separable Verbs” is for beginner learners who may not be able to grasp the notion that simple English verbs like ‘eat’ or ‘sleep’ can take the form of two character words in Chinese that can have abstract objects which cannot be translated well in English. The teaching of “Separable Verbs” is, in essence, for students who rely too much on the English-to-Chinese translation in their learning of Chinese verbs.

In the long-term, the subjective and arbitrary notion of “Separable Verbs” is likely to cause confusion for learners. There is no “correct” list of “Separable Verbs”, no distinct grammatical patterns, and Chinese speakers themselves usually do not view their own language according to these distinctions (except insofar as they are teaching Chinese as a foreign language).

Intermediate learners of Chinese are advised to focus on different ways of manipulating Single-Character Verbs and Double-Character Verbs, both with or without objects, without reference to the artificial construct of a “Separable Verbs”.


Disclaimer

Of course, perhaps I’ve missed something. If anyone is able to explain why “Separable Verbs” in general are grammatically or conceptually distinct from regular Verb-Object Phrases, please get in touch and I will, of course, be open to revising my view.


References and Further Reading

I would like to thank my Chinese teacher, Andy, for helping me understand this topic. I was also inspired to some extent by a discussion on the forums of Chinesepod started by user simonpettersson, who argued that “Separable Verbs” are a “useful lie”. View the discussion here: http://chinesepod.com/community/conversations/post/9945

1. The Code of Chinese Verbs, p. 3-10.
2. Mandarin Grammar Wiki, http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Separable_verbs
3. Chinesepod, https://chinesepod.com/lessons/separable-verbs
4. New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 3, p. 16-17.
5. Integrated Chinese Level 1 Part 1, p.113.

What is the difference between 附近 and 就近?

Pleco dictionary gives similar English meanings to the words 附近 and 就近. So what’s the difference in usage?

附近

就近

Pinyin fù jìn jiù jìn
HSK Level HSK 3 HSK 5
Pleco Definitions 1. (in the) vicinity 2. nearby

3. neighboring

4. next to

1. nearby 2. in a close neighborhood

附近

附近 can be used as a noun after a location noun phrase (e.g. 这里,那里,办公室,火车站) meaning a location “in the vicinity” of the place noun. In spoken Chinese, this usually refers to something within approximately 200 meters of the location noun phrase.

火车站附近很难打车。
It’s difficult to get a taxi near the train station.

我想去步行街附近买衣服。
I want to go the area near the High Street to buy clothes.

If the location noun phrase is 这里, usually it is omitted from the sentence.

(这里)附近有很多很cool的酒吧。
There are lots of cool bars nearby.

It is often used after 在 to indicate the location where an action happens.

我在附近上班。
I work nearby.

我朋友在电影院附近丢了手机。
My friend lost his phone near the cinema.


就近

就近 is usually used as an adverb meaning “nearby”. It’s usually placed directly before the verb.

我们就近吃饭吧。
Let’s eat nearby.

小王打算和朋友就近打一会儿球。
Xiao Wang plans to play ball with his friend nearby for a while.

 

Expressing Duration using Time Duration Phrases

Abstract

The following explains how to describe the duration of an action using Time Duration Phrases . It presupposes students have at least a basic familiarity with the 了 particle and knowledge of various Time Duration Phrases (e.g. 一个小时,两天,很长时间,四十年多).

多久Contents

Introduction
Three Common Sentence Patterns using Time Duration Phrases
Asking About Duration with 吗,多长时间 and 多久
Key Points to Remember
Grammar Table with Examples
Two Further Sentence Patterns using Time Duration Phrases
Using 已经…了 to Emphasise Duration
Summary
References and Further Reading


Introduction

In English, we usually describe the duration of an action by saying [ for + Time-Duration-Phrase ] at the end of the sentence. We usually use [ “how long” or “how many” + minutes/hours/days etc. ] to ask about the duration of an action.

He ran for 20 minutes.
I study French for two hours every night.
How long have you been living in London?


The Three Most Common Sentence Patterns Expressing Time Duration Phrases

In Chinese, there are three main sentences patterns to remember. Which pattern to use depends on whether the verb is transitive (taking an object) or intransitive (not taking an object).

The two most commonly used patterns are:

Pattern 1: Subject + Verb-Intransitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 了)


他休息了半个小时。
He rested for half an hour.

我考虑了四个星期了。
I have been thinking about it for 4 weeks.

Pattern 2: Subject + Verb-Transitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 的) + Object (+ 了)

我要跑一个小时的步。
I’m going to go running for an hour.

我在北京住了三年多了。
I have lived in Beijing for more than 3 years.

This third pattern is less commonly used, although it is grammatically correct:

Pattern 3: Subject + Verb-Transitive + Object + Verb-Transitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 了)

他跑步跑了四十分钟。
He ran for forty minutes.

我做作业做了半天啦。
I have been doing my homework for ages!


Asking About During with 吗,多长时间 and 多久

These first three patterns can be all turned into yes-no questions by using 吗 at the end of sentence.

你每天上八个小时的班吗?
Do you work eight hours everyday?

Alternatively, by using the question words 多长时间 (“how much time”),多久 (“how long”) and 几+Time-Word (“how many” + minutes/hours/days etc.) in place of the Time Duration Phrase, the sentences can be turned into open-ended questions.

你想在中国住多久?
How long do you plan to live in China?

你的老婆做饭做了多长时间了?
How long has your wife been cooking the meal so far?


Key Points to Remember

1. The 了 particle can be used immediately after the verb to show the past aspect of the verb (i.e. “did”).

2. If 了 is used immediately after the verb and also at the end of the sentence, it indicates the present perfect continuous aspect (i.e. “have been doing”).

3. Modal verbs (such as 应该,必须,要 etc.) should be placed before the first verb of the sentence only.

4. In the second sentence pattern, 的 often can be omitted.

5. If the object is a personal pronoun, it cannot be used in the second sentence. In other words, you can’t say 我等了一个小时的他, but you can say 我等了他等了一个小时.


Grammar Tables with Examples

Pattern 1: Intransitive Verbs: Subject + Verb-Intransitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 了)
(Note: In this example, the double character 学习 can be shortened to the single character 学 when followed immediately by 了.)

Simple Now Past Aspect Present Perfect Continuous Aspect Imminent Future Aspect
Statement (一般)学习一个小时。I (usually) study for an hour. 我学习了一个小时。I studied for an hour. 我(已经)学习了一个小时了。I have been studying for an hour. 我要学习一个小时。I am going to study for an hour.
Open Question with 多久 (一般)学习多久?How long do you (usually) study for? 你学习了多久?How long did you study for? 你(已经)学习了多久了?
How long have you been studying?
你要学习多久?
How long are you going to study for?
Open Question with (一般)学习几个小时?How much hours do you usually study? 你学习了几个小时?How many hours did you study? 你(已经)学习了几个小时了?How many hours have you been studying? 你要学习几个小时?How many hours are you going to study for?

Pattern 2: Transitive Verbs: Subject + Verb-Transitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 的) + Object (+ 了)

Simple Now Past Aspect Present Perfect Continuous Aspect Imminent Future Aspect
Statement (每天)看一个小时()电视。I watch TV for an hour (everyday.) 我看了一个小时()电视。I watched TV for an hour. 我(已经)看了一个小时()电视了。I have been watching TV for an hour. 我要看一个小时()电视。I’m going to watch TV for an hour.
Open Question with 多久 (每天)看多久()电视?How long do you watch TV for (everyday)? 你看了多久()电视?How long did you watch TV? 你(已经)看了多久()电视了?How long have you been watching TV? 你要看多久()电视?How long are you going watch TV for?
Open Question with (每天)看几个小时()电视?How many hours of TV do you watch (everyday)? 你看了几个小时()电视?How many hours of TV did you watch? 你(已经)看了几个小时()电视了?How many hours have you been TV? 你要看几个小时()电视?How many hours are you going to watch TV for?

Two Further Sentence Patterns using Time During Phrases

The following two sentence patterns are much less common. I don’t see them very often and they don’t provide any additional meaning to the sentence, so whilst you should be aware of them, it isn’t worth spending a lot of time learning the grammar pattern. The Chinese Grammar Wiki, for instance, does not feature the following phrases.

Pattern 4: Subject + Verb + Object + 有 + Time-Duration-Phrase

This sentence is distinctive from the patterns described above insofar as 有 is used before the time duration phrase.

她跟她男朋友谈恋爱有六个月了。
She has been dating her boyfriend for six months.

Pattern 5: Object + Subject + Verb-Transitive (+了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 了)

If the verb is transitive, then you could use this pattern as well. It is a variation on the second pattern with the Object used at the start of the sentence. Again, it’s not so common.

中文,他学了十年多了。
He has studied Chinese for more than 10 years.


Using 已经…了 to Emphasise Duration

The construction 已经…了 can be used in all five aforementioned sentence patterns to emphasise the duration of an action. 已经 is mostly translated as “already”, and when expressing a time duration it usually implies the Present Perfect Continuous aspect of the verb (i.e. the Double 了 sentence, or “have been doing” tense in English.)

他已经在那家公司做了好几年了的工作。
He has already been working at that company for many years.


Summary

The two most commonly used sentences expressing a Time Duration Phrase are:

1. Subject + Verb-Intransitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 了)
2. Subject + Verb-Transitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 的) + Object (+ 了)

Three less commonly used sentences expressing a Time Duration Phrase are:

3. Subject + Verb-Transitive + Object + Verb-Transitive (+ 了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 了)
4. Subject + Verb + Object + 有 + Time-Duration-Phrase
5. Object + Subject + Verb-Transitive (+了) + Time-Duration-Phrase (+ 了)


References and Further Reading

1. New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 2, p.109.
2. Modern Mandarin Practical Grammar: A Practical Guide, p. 243-245.
3. Chinese Grammar Wiki, http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Expressing_duration

‘New Practical Chinese Reader’ Textbook Series: Brief Review and Overview of Content

Students of Chinese may be familiar with the New Practical Chinese Reader, a series of six textbooks by Beijing Language and Culture University Press first published in 2002.

pd_r2_c2

The format of each lesson remains more or less consistent throughout all 70 lessons. Most lessons consist of three main texts, with related pronunciation drills, speaking and writing exercises, and grammatical explanations. Audio and video materials accompany the texts. An additional workbook is available to be used alongside the main textbook.

I first came across the New Practical Chinese Reader when I was in Beijing in 2007. At that time, there were not nearly as many materials for learning Mandarin as there are today.

Is the New Practical Chinese Reader a good textbook?

Certainly, some criticisms can be made. Firstly, as is common with many government-sponsored Chinese learning materials, there is too much focus on “cultural” information and little interest in “practical” communication. For example, Lesson 17 is about buying a 旗袍 (a traditional Chinese style of dress), Lesson 19 compares Chinese and Western paintings and Lesson 20 is about Chinese New Year.

In addition, the strong grammatical focus of the books may overwhelm some readers. Lesson 12, for instance, discusses with “sentences with a subject-predicate as predicate” while Chapter 34 deals with “interrogative pronouns of indefinite denotation”. Mandarin grammar enthusiasts like myself, on the other hand, may find this kind of approach appealing.

Some of the dialogues may seem a little “stiff”, but to be fair this criticism can be leveled at most textbooks.

lesson4Despite these flaws, however, I consider the New Practical Chinese Reader to be a good learning resource, especially from the second book onwards. The pronunciation and substitution drills (where sentence patterns can be repetitively practised), grammatical explanations and language function examples are pretty good. Having said that, it may be the case I have developed a kind of ‘Stockholm syndrome’ after using these books for so many years.

At the very least, this textbook series contains an abundance of very useful information. One problem is that, since the textbook is intended to be studied chronologically, it is not always straightforward to find some details later on.

The following is an overview of this textbook series, focusing on grammar points and language functions covered in each chapter.  Perhaps this overview may help students using the New Practical Chinese Reader to review key points more effectively.

New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 1

Chapter

Sentence Structure

Language Functions

1

1. Chinese word order

Subject + Predicate

1. Saying hello

2. Greetings

2

1. Sentences with an adjectival predicate

1. Greetings

2. Asking what someone wants

3

n/a

1. Identifying people

2. Asking someone’s nationality

3. Introducing people

4

1. Sentences with

1. Asking for permission

2. Asking someone’s name

3. Introducing oneself

5

1. Questions with an interrogative pronoun

1. Asking for directions

2. Looking for someone

3. Making an apology

4. Asking about someone’s occupation

6

(Review)

1. Sentences with a verbal predicate

1. Making suggestions

2. Asking someone to repeat something

3. Making comments

7

1. Attributives expressing possession (i.e. )

2. V/A-not-V/A questions

V/A++V/A+O

3. Abbreviated questions with

4. The position of adverbs and

1. Meeting someone for the first time

2. Talking about one’s major

8

1. Numbers from 11-100

2. Number-measure words are attributives

Nu+M+N

3. Sentences with

没有/有+O

4. Questions with or 多少

1. Talking about one’s family

2. Talking about one’s university

9

1. Expressing the date and days of the week

2. Words expressing time as adverbials

a) TW+S+VO/A

b) S+TW+VO/A

3. Sentences with a nominal predicate

S+Nu-M

4. Using 好吗 to ask a question

1. Making an appointment

2. Asking about someone’s age and birthplace

3. Celebrating someone’s birthday

10

1. Prepositional phrases and

2. Sentences with double objects (1) using and

给/送+Pr/N(person)+NP(thing)

3. The adverb in sentences with an adjectival predicate

S++A

1. Likes and dislikes

2. Shopping

3. Solving language problems

11

1. Telling time

2. Sentences with optative verbs (1): , , 可以 and 应该

3. Sentences with serial verb phrases (1): Purpose

S+V1O+V2O

4. Sentences with double objects (2): and

1. Asking about time

2. Expressing one’s ability

3. Expressing permission or prohibition

12

1. Sentences with a subject-predicate as predicate

S1+S2+Predicate

2. Alternative questions with 还是

3. Sentences with an optative verb (2): 要,想,愿意

1. Talking about one’s health

2. Expressing one’s desire or need

13

1. The particle (1)

(i.e. realization/completion of an action)

V++Nu-M/A/Pr+O

2. Pivotal sentences

S+V1+O1(i.e.S2)+V2+O2

3. Sentences with an optative verb (3): 可能,会

1. Making a phone call

2. Renting a house

3. Asking for suggestions

4. An invitation

14

(Review)

1. Four kinds of simple sentences

a) Sentences with a verbal predicate

b) Sentences with an adjectival predicate

c) Sentences with a nominal predicate

d) Sentences with a subject-predicate phrase as predicate

2. Six question types

a)

b) V/A-notV/A

c) interrogative pronouns

d) 还是

e) 好吗

f)

1. Making a complaint or an apology

2. Passing on someone’s regards

3. Extending holiday greetings

4. Suggestions and invitations

New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 2

Chapter

Sentence Structure

Language Functions

15

1. The complement of state

V++Adv+A

2. The particle (2)

(i.e. confirming completion/realization of something or some situation)

V+O+

3. Reduplication of verbs

AA, AA and ABAB

4. Numeration for numbers from 100 to 10,000

1. Saying hello

2. Confirming that something has happened

3. Commenting on one’s actions

4. Changing money at the bank

5. Describing a place one has visted

16

1. The simple directional complement using and

V+O+来/去

2. The sentence (1)

S++O+V+other elements

3. The time-measure complement (1)

(V)+O+V+time-measure complement

1. Filling out forms

2. Borrowing books

3. Returning books

4. Making new friends

5. Leaving and coming back in a moment

17

1. The phrase (1)

Pr / N / A +

2. Comparisons using the preposition (1)

a) S++N/Pr+A

b) S++N/Pr+VP

3. The complement of quantity

S++N/Pr+A+Numeral-measure word phrase

1. Describing things

2. Comparing things

3. Buying clothes

18

1. The resultative complement

S+V+V/A(++O+)

2. The sentence (2)

a) S++O+给/送/找+O(+)

b) S+Adv++O+V+来/去(+)

3. The sentence (2)

S++N/A/Pr/Vp+

1. At the post office

2. Describing things

3. Uncertainty

4. Reminding

5. Taking the bus

19

1. Using 不一样/一样 to make comparisons

+NP+()+一样+A/VO

2. The time-measure complement (2) (i.e. double )

V+Time-measure complement+()+O

3. Sentences with serial verb phrases (2)

1. Expressing the duration of time

2. Talking about hobbies

3. Exhanging greetings

4. Saying goodbye

20

(Review)

1. The six basic functional components of a Chinese sentence: subject, predicate, object, attributive, adverbial, complement

2. Sentences with a verbal predicate (1) (i.e. summary of 10 simple sentences)

1. Asking for reasons

2. Hurrying somebody up

3. New Year’s greetings

21

1. The construction

2. Location words 里边,外边,左边,右边,上面,下面,前边,后边,东边,西边,南边,北边

3. Sentences indicating existence

a) S(phrase indicating persons or things that exist)++O(phrase indicating location)

b) S(phrase indicating location)+有/是+O(phrase indicating persons or things that exist)

1. Talking about the time and location of past events

2. Talking about direction and location

3. Asking about direction

4. Talking about sports matches

22

1. Past experience with

V+(+O)

2. The action-measure complements and

S+Adv+V+O(Pr)+Nu+action-measure word+O

3. 虽然,但是/可是

1. Talking about a past experience

2. Looking for a job

3. Making an appointment or a date with someone

4. Making comments

23

1. An action that is going to take place in short time with 要,就要 and 快要

V/A(+O)+

2. The complex directional complement:

The directional verbs 上,下,进,出,回,过,起 with simple direction complements and

3. Notional passive sentences

1. Talking about plans

2. Making suggestions

3. Talking about the weather

4. Purchasing plane tickets

5. Going to a restaurant

24

1. Changed circumstances (1)

with (2)

2. The progressive aspect of an action

正在/在+V+O(+)

3. The construction 不但而且

1. Picking someone up and seeing someone off

2. Talking about changes

3. Talking about living conditions

25

1. The continuous aspect of an action or state with

2. The sentence

S(receiver)++O(agent)+V+other element

3. The resultative complements and

4. The conditional construction 如果

1. Talking about an incident

2. Visiting a patient

3. Making complaints

26

(Review)

1. Sentences with a verbal predicate (2)

a) sentences with

b) sentences indicating existence

c) Notional passive sentences

d) Passive sentences

2. The aspects of an action

a) completion or realization of an action or event

b) changed circumstances

c) the continuous aspect of an action or a state

d) past experience

e) an action that is going to take place in a short time

f) the progressive aspect of an action

3. Various kinds of complements (1)

a) the complement of state

b) the complement of degree

c) the directional complement

d) the resultative complement

e) the complement of quantity

f) the time-measure complement

g) the action-measure complement

1. Recalling past events

2. Talking about language studies

New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 3

Chapter

Sentence Structure

Language Functions

Word Usage and Examples

27

1. The sentence (3)

2. and to express comparisons

3.Separable disyllabic verbs

4. 一边,一边

1. Expressing one’s opinion

2. Giving an example

n/a

28

1. Using 有/没有 to express comparisons

S+有/没有+NP(+这么/那么)+A

2. The rhetorical question (1)

a) 不是吗?b) interrogative pronouns

3. Sentences containing a series of verbs (3)

S+有/没有+O+V2

4. and as resultative complements

1. Comparing

2. Presenting and appreciating a gift

3. Asking in retort

4. Worrying about something

n/a

29

1. Sentences indicating existence or emergence (2)

S(PW)+V++Num-MW+O

2. The reduplication of adjectives

3. The structural particle

4. The sentence (4)

S++O+VV

1. Describing things

2. Emphasizing an affirmation

3. Expressing modesty

n/a

30

1. Sentences indicating existence or emergence (3)

S(PW)+V+Pt or Complement + Num-MW+O

2. indicating a change of situation (2)

3. The complement of state (2)

a) verbal phrase

b) subject-predicate phrase

c) directional complement

d) resultative complement

4. The construction

1. Indicating change

2. Making a summary

n/a

31

1. Enumeration of numbers over 10,000

2. Approximate numbers

a)

b)

c) two adjacent numbers

3. Pivotal sentences (2)

(S1+)没有/有+O(+S2)+V2+O2

4. 只要,就

1. Giving encouragement

2. Asking about something

n/a

32

(Review)

1. Structural particles 的,地,得

(review)

2. Summary of the sentence

3. The adverbs and

1. Making someone’s acquaintance

2. Making a guess

3. Giving a vague response

4. Explaining

n/a

33

1. Potential complement (1)

V+得/不+ Resultative or Directional Complement

2. Extended use of 出来

3. The reduplication of nouns, measure words and numeral-measure word phrases

4. The construction

1. Indicating a possibility

2. Expressing concern

3. Bringing up a topic of conversation

n/a

34

1. Sentences with a subject-predicate phrase as the predicate

2. Interrogative pronouns of indefinite denotation

3. and as resultative complements

4. The subjectless sentence

5. The construction ,也/都

1. Making additional remarks

2. Stressing a point

3. Telling a story

n/a

35

1. Interrogative pronouns of general denotation (1)

2. Fractions, percentages and multiples

3. The construction 也/都+没/不

4. The construction 就是

1. Reproaching and questioning

2. Refusing

3. Making an explanation

n/a

36

1. The potential complement (2)

V+得/不+下/了/动

2. Extended use of 起来

3. The construction

4. The construction 除了以外,都/也

1. Talking about the climate

2. Making a suggestion

3. Expressing a possibility

n/a

37

1. The extended use of 下去

2. Interrogative pronouns of general denotation (2)

3. Making comparisons using the preposition

S++N/Pr+S-PP

4. The constrution

1. In a restaurant

2. Expressing surprise

n/a

38

(Review)

1. Types of complements

2. Flexible uses of interrogrative pronouns

3. The adverbs and

1. Congratulating newly-weds

2. Clarifying a point of view

3. Comforting and consoling

4. Making a decision

n/a

New Practical Chinese Reader: Textbook 4

Chapter

Sentence Structure

Language Functions

Word Usage and Examples

39

1. A+得多

2. 一天比一天+A

3. 不是,而是

1. Expressing necessity

2. Praising and making responses

3. Making complaints or explanations

总是

终于

必须

究竟

40

1. Double negation 两次否定

… and 没有

2. 要是,就

3. 只有,才

4. The detached phrase 独立语

1. Expressing an emphasis

2. Interviewing people

3. Making a speech

几乎

为了

方面

41

1. Sentences with serial verb phrases and a pivotal word 连动兼语句

2. 即使,也

3. 不管,都/也

1. Expressing agreement

2. Making an additional explanation

3. Expressing a sudden realization

关于

受之内

42

1. The rhetorical question (2) 反问句

2. 不但+不/没,反而

3. 不是,就是

1. Spring Festival greetings

2. Asking a rhetorical question

3. Expressing mindlessness

怪不得

尤其

连忙

43

1. Reduplicated adjectives functioning as a predicate

2. The construction V/A+坏/死了

3. The construction 不/()…,就

1. Describing people or things

2. Expressing regret

仍然

还是

那么

似的

44

(Review)

1. Reduplication of verbs and adjectives

2. Ways of expressing comparisons

a) and 不比

b) and 没有

c) 一样/不一样

d) and

e) 越来越

f) 一天比一天

g) 还是

3. Summary of complex sentences

a) combined complex sentences

b) successive complex sentences

c) progressive complex sentences

d) complex sentences of supposition

e) complex sentences of purpose

1. Expressing doubt and disbelief

2. Bargaining for a good price

(5) “only”

一下子

从来

45

1. The prepositional phrase as a complement (1) with

2. Sentences with (3)

3. The construction 无论,都/也

1. Expressing satisfaction

2. Applying for a job

一切

成为

根据

46

1. Pivotal sentences (3)

(i.e. expressing likes and dislikes with 喜欢,爱,称赞,夸奖,欣赏,嫌,怪,批评,笑话)

S+V1+O1(S2)+Predicate

2. The construction

3. The construction 那么,那么

1. Making complaints

2. Making a promise

就是

本来

47

1. Pivotal sentences (4)

(i.e. expressing belief with 称,叫,认为,选)

2. The construction

3. The construction 既然,就

1. Unable to say for sure

2. Explaining reasons

基本上

的时候

也许

48

1. Sentences with (2)

(i.e. expressing view/attitude with affirmative tone)

2. Double interrogative sentences

S+V+O(with Qpr)+

3. The construction 尽管,还是

1. Expressing affirmation

2. Making an estimate

以来

关系到

一直

其实

49

1. Pivotal sentences (5)

(using )

S++O1(S2)+Predicate

2. The prepositional phrase as complement (2)

寄/来/选/出/取++NP

3. 一方面,一方面

1. Persuading or dissuading

2. Giving an explanation

看来

正好

简直

50

(Review)

1. Methods for expressing emphasis

a) rhetorical questions

b) double negation

c) 都/也

d) using

e) using

f) using

2. The modal particles 把,呢 and

3. Summary of complex sentences (2)

1. Narrating

2. Wishing

恨不得

从此

左右

进行

(Only the first four textbooks have been summarised.)