Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
laowhiner

Questions regarding DeFrancis' Beginning Chinese Reader

Recommended Posts

wibr

Your welcome! I am almost through the third book, but I think I will take a break after that one, review all the words, listen to the audio and try to get a solid grasp of the grammar patterns introduced so far before tackling the last two books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

laowhiner

Lesson 15

 

RESOLVED 1. Exercise 1, buildups 

我在上海上學。I go to school in Shanghai. 

 

很少就在上海上學。 I rarely go to school in Shanghai. literally = I very few only go to school in Shanghai. Is this right? 很少就 is a set phrase?

 

RESOLVED 2. Illustrative Sentence 29

他的中國字那兒能比中國人寫得還好?His written Chinese characters (there) can be compared to a Chinese person's and they are still better. 

 

The translation provided by the text: How can he write Chinese characters better than a Chinese? 

 

I don't understand:

a.  if it's supposed to be a 哪兒 or 那兒 (the book doesn't distinguish -- you have to guess based on context)

b. I don't see how this could possibly be a question. Perhaps it is supposed to be 哪兒 and in this case it is being used to ask a question that isn't "where." 

 

3. Dialogue 4

A. 西山人多, 東山太遠。 要不然上南山?West Mountain has many people, East Mountain is too far. How about (or else, otherwise) we go to South Mountain? 

B: 好,南山很好。Ok, South Mountain's good. 

 

I'm assuming I understand the context. I had never seen 要不然 used like this. It's supposed to translate as "or else" or "otherwise." Neither translation words smoothly here. 

 

RESOLVED 4. Dialogue 9

A: 是不是上海是一個大海口?Is Shanghai a large seaport?

B: 是, 上海是中國一個大海口。Yes, Shanghai is a large seaport in China. 

 

My question is, does part B mean Shanghai is China's LARGEST seaport or just that it is A seaport in China. 

 

Narrative 14 uses a similar patter: 中國土地很大,人口很多。 是遠東一個大國。 China's territory is very large and it has many people. It is a large country in the Far East. or It is the largest country in the Far East. ?

 

RESOLVED 5. Narrative 26

有很多人都想買他的小説。你要買馬上就買,不然就沒有了。Many people would like to buy his novel. If you want to buy, immediately buy. Otherwise, there soon won't be any. 

 

Not sure how the 你要買馬上就買 translates. I know I have the jist of it. 

 

RESOLVED 6. Narrative 29

先生說:“你看書要看上下文, 不要就看一兩個字Teacher says: "You need to read for context. Don't just read the words." 

 

What the hell is 一兩個字. A word (one + two characters = word?)? One or two words? 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
curry

1. 很少就 is a commonly set phrase, but I usually just see 很少. I don't think the 就 here means "only" though, in regard to your literal translation.

2. The 那兒 should be 哪兒. It is used to ask a rhetorical question starting with "How could...?. For example, 我哪兒知道? means "How could I know?"

3. Sorry, I can't explain this, and I cannot find a usage in the grammar book I have on hand in accordance with that sentence. Hopefully someone else can help explain.

4. Saying 上海是中國一個大海口 does not mean that it is necessarily the largest seaport, just that it is a large seaport. Similarly, 中國是遠東一個大國 does not mean China is the largest country but that it is a large country.

5. The 就 here works like "then." 你要買就馬上買 means "If you want to buy (it), buy (it) immediately." You can find the same usage in sentences like "你想去就去" and "我想做甚麼就做甚麼."

6. I would translate this sentence as "When you read, you need to read the context. Don't just look at one or two characters." 一兩個字 means "one or two characters." You can find similar constructs in "五、六個蘋果" (5 or 6 apples) and "二、三十分鐘" (20-30 minutes).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
laowhiner

curry, thanks for an awesome answer (the examples are very useful -- I will be looking into #2 a bit further because I now recall this came up in DeFrancis' accompanying Beginning Chinese text, and it's something I still don't fully feel comfortable with). 

 

re: #6. DeFrancis, for whatever reason, translated a couple sentences using the 子 as "word" or "words", so I stuck with that even though I know it means character. It still feels like a weird sentence, though, but maybe that's because I am ironically focusing too much on the characters and not enough on the context. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wibr

if you have a list of options, implied from context or previously mentioned, 要不然 is another option someone just came up with as a suggestion, like "you could also ...", "why not ..."

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
stapler

2: 那兒 is correct. Or at least it was in the 1960s. It's only a fairly recently that 哪 has come to represent na3. Most old texts will only use 那 and let you work whether its na4 or na3 from context. There's similar things like 她. IIRC defrancis doesn't have this character because it's also a new thing.  Anyway in this sentence it's na3. It can be used not just to refer to physical locations like in English, but more precise things, and even metaphorically. "Where is his writing like a Chinese persons?". Don't try and translate so literally into English.

 

3. As above, don't try and translate so literally into English. Take Chinese as it's own language with it's own preferences for how to express things, not just English that has been "coded" into something else. While the definition for 要不然 is "otherwise". You can tell from the context that this is a broader meaning too "what about". Don't be so rigid in trying to force English conventions on the phrase.

 

6. As above. Understand that Chinese don't think in terms of "words" exactly like we do in English so don't try and find that precise correlation. When speaking English talk about words. When speaking Chinese talk about characters. Context is almost always enough to know what is being referred to.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
laowhiner

stapler -- I want to avoid making assumptions when possible. When I do make assumptions, it is nice to get those confirmed as being correct (like the 要不然 sentence) or wrong (like my question about Shanghai being China's largest seaport). In other cases, I have been totally confused like with 哪兒 used in rhetorical questions (I never even considered it could be used in any way except to indicate direction -- there, where?). When that happens, I just literally translate the sentence instead of guessing to ensure you will know I need help (if I guess based on the context and translate it correctly, then you will assume I understand the grammar or sentence pattern when in fact my understanding is foggy at best -- so I will continue to be rigid in these cases). 

 

I am actually consistently surprised at how closely Chinese maps to English in this text. In some cases, I have read a sentence and wondered if it is in natural Chinese because it seems far too close to English translated into Chinese without regard for Chinese grammar conventions. For instance, I had only encountered 比 when used to compare two different things, yet DeFrancis used it in a sentence like, "中國人說西湖的美可以比一個美女" which is almost a word-for-word translation of an English expression. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
laowhiner
Lesson 16

 

1. Narrative 11

我家裏西山很近,不到二里路。我到西山都是走路去。 My home is near the western hills/mountains -- less than a couple miles. I always go there on foot. 

 

都是 feels weird. If it was 總是 I would be more comfortable with the "always" translation. 

 

2. Narrative 2

我們在路上一邊走,一邊説話,我們走到大華中學。 We were chatting and walking at the same time and we quickly arrived at Great China Middle School. 

 

I'm taking the jiu here to indicate a briefness to the action -- chatting, walkingn, and arriving all within a short time period because the school is close. yes/no?

 

3. Narrative 29

他説他要在西湖里坐坐小船。 He says he wants to take a ride on a small boat on West lake. 

 

I am confused with the 坐坐小船. 坐小船 = take a small boat. What does the extra 坐 mean? Seated ride? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

On 很少就在上海上學 - is there any chance 小/少 have got confused there? I went to school in Shanghai when I was very young. (edit. Hang on, or shào, young). 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
lips

I agree.  "我很少就在 ..." is incorrect, should be 小 if the meaning is "when I was young".  "When I was very young I already .." is "我很小 (not 少)就....".  Similarly, "when I was young" is "我小時", not "我少時".

 

If the meaning is with frequency, the 就 would not be there, and 少 is used: 我很少在...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roddy

That's what I was thinking. But there is a dictionary definition of 少 as young (4th tone, as in 少年). I wouldn't expect to see it used as a single character like this, but it's an old book and something is wrong here.

 

On balance I suspect it should be 小 though. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
lips

For #28,

 

1.  都是 is OK here to mean always. Depending on the context, it can also mean "also".

2.  就 here does not imply brevity.  I don't know the grammatical term for it, but 就 here indicates the end state or the  following state to the first part of the sentence.  In another context, it can also mean the result because of the first part.

3.  Doublng up a verb in this case means "doing a (little) bit of".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
lips

You're right, 少 is not used this way by itself to mean young.  However, 我少年時 is a correct way to say "in my youth", or more strictly, ""in my adolescence".

 

少時 can be used to mean "in a little while" or "not long after".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
laowhiner

Yes, I either miss-typed or my brain saw a shao3 when it should've seen a xiao3. 

 

我很就在上海上學 is the correct sentence. Good catch. The discussion on 小 vs 少 is useful, though. 

 

Thanks, lips -- I need to look into jiu4 a bit more because if I had to write that sentence myself, it wouldn't have occured to me to use it, and I still don't fully get the meaning (but maybe it will become more clear as I read more passages). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
laowhiner

Lesson 17

 

RESOLVED 1. 他説來説去還是沒説明那條路好走不好走。 She's going on and on but she still hasn't explained if that road is passable or not. 
 
What's up with the 去? It feels stranded in the middle of nowhere. Is it needed for the last part of the sentence, or does it refer to her speech going and going and going? This phrase appears in Narrative 1 (which I have questions about as well further down). 
 
RESOLVED 2. Dialogue 6
人民日報上有小説嗎? Does the People's Daily have fiction? 
 
上 in this context means in the paper, right? Is it necessary? Would 人民日報有沒有小説?also be ok?
 
RESOLVED 3. Dialogue 11
是, 中國是個大國,人口很多,在遠東是第一個大國,是一個文明國家。 Yes, China is a large country with many people. It's number 1 in size in the Far Eas and a civilized nation。 
 
Based on previous answers in this thread (thank you), I'm assuming my translation "largest in size and a civilized country" is correct (rather than another translation that might loosely be... "biggest and most civilized.")
 
RESOLVED 4. Narrative 1
他們説來説去説到小説了。文學家說:“有一天,我在白話報上看見了一個小説【海】,寫的很好。 今天我在這裏看見海。 我又想看那個小説了。小説家説:“那個小説我也看了,寫的是很好.” They spoke and spoke about novels. The literatus said: "One day, I read a well-written story about the sea in a vernacular journal. Today, I'm here looking at the sea. I really would like to read that story again. The novelist said: "I've also read that story. It's written very well." 
 
Again, the 説來説去說 that has me scratching my head a bit. Why the 去?
 
I am unsure of my translation of this passage, so that's why it's a bit longer. Normally, I just pick out a sentence or two from a passage that bug me instead of several. 
 
RESOLVED 5. Narrative 4
有一次學生念到【遠、近】兩個字。 One time, the students were studying/reading two characters: far and near. 
 
Is the 到 necessary here? I'm not sure how it contributes to the meaning. 
 
RESOLVED 6. Narrative 7
我坐船在日本上海。 I took a boat in Japan and Shanghai. or is it  I boarded a boat going from Japan to Shanghai. 
 
I don't know what to make of this sentence. No clue if my translation is accurate or not. 
 
RESOLVED 7. Narrative 8
我頭次到中國是民國二十三年五月十八號。 第二天我就在山東大學年中文。 我是第一次到中國來念書。 The first time I came to China was on May 18th, 1934. I started studying Chinese right on the second day at Shandong University. I am the first to come study in China. 
 
Is he the first ONE to come study in China, or is he restating that this is his first TIME coming to China to study. 
 
It seems like he's saying he's the first one ever to come to China to study. Either this takes place a thousand years ago or this guy has Tom Cruise in Last Samurai syndrome: white guy's first time visiting ethnically homogenous country besides his own. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
stapler

1. X 來 X 去 is a very common Chinese way of expressing doing things continuously. eg: 走來走去 - walking around, pacing. In this case, it's just as you describe, talking on and on

 

2. I think you could say it without the 上. There's always plenty of ways to say something, and often there is lots of redundancy, but it adds euphony. Chinese is big on euphony.

 

3. notice here ”第一“ (this is important for translating your number 7). Your translation is correct.

 

4. "the spoke on and on (until) they started talking about novels and then.... " (this translation captures the meaning, but is less literal than yours).

 

5. 到 means to arrive or achieve. Here it gives the sense that they have studied it. In more technical terms, 念到 is called a resultative verb - it explains what happens as a consequence of the verb. In this case the "study" has been "achieved". You'll see this all the time in Chinese. 見到 for example means to see something, literally "seeing has been achieved". And 見不到 means "unable to see".

 

6. I'm not sure either. This leads me to start thinking that the last part isn't Shanghai the city, but talking about a sea that's a part of Japan: "I am riding a boat that is on (上) Japan's sea (海)"

 

7. See 3. 第一 means "first" in terms of rank. So if it was "the first foreigner to come to China" it would be 第一. But it's 我一次 (the first time I).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
lips

頭次 in the first sentence and 第一次 in the last sentence have the same meaning - "first time".  The writer prbably did not want yo use the same term so close together.  Both terms apply to the writer only, so there is no implication of being the first among all people.

 

我頭次到中國是 .... 我是第一次到 ...

 

The first time I went to China was ... It was my first time to go to ...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
laowhiner
Lesson 18

 

RESOLVED 1. Narrative 5 國文先生說:“念中文要看上下文,不要就看兩三個字。不然,就不能明白。學生說:“上下文都要看嗎?”先生說:“有的看上文,有的看下文,也有的上下文都要看”

The literature teacher said: "You must read the context. Don't just look at one or two characters. Otherwise, you won't understand." A student said: "Can everyone see the context?" The teacher said: "some see what already came, others see what is coming, while others still can see the entire context." 

 

Are 下文 and 上文 a play on words or actual words (i.e 下文 for foreshadowing)? How is my translation? 

 

Lesson 19

I am finding the relative clauses very tricky to get used to, so I have an unusually high number of questions (maybe I should make a second thread for this particular topic). If questions 2 - 6 are correct, you just need to tell me -- no need for an in-depth explanation. 

 

RESOLVED 2. Building up 2 

我有好的字典。I have a good dictionary. 

我有比這個好的字典。 The dictionary I have is better than this one. 

 

RESOLVED 3. Pitfalls 1

我今天買了一本書,很好。I bought a book today. It was very good. 

我今天買的一本書很好。A very good book that I bought today. 

 

RESOLVED 4. Pitfalls 4

她在書店看過的那四本字典很好。 Those four good dictionaries she saw in the bookstore today. 

她在書店看過的是日本字典不是?Is it a Japanese dictionary that she read/saw in a bookstore? 

 

5. Practice on Relative Clauses 2

學校離書店不遠。 The school isn't far from the boostore. 

離書店不遠的那個學校是小學。 That school that isn't far from the bookstore is an elementary school. 

 

RESOLVED 6. Practice on Relative Clauses 5

那本字典比這個好。 That dictionary is better than this one. 

我們沒有比這本好的字典。 We don't have a dictionary that is as good as this one. 

 

RESOLVED 7. Dialogue 1

你來的時候看見華先生他們了嗎? When you were coming, did you see Mr. Hua's family? 

I am not sure what pronoun + tamen means. Is my assumption correct here that it means family or your people?

 

RESOLVED 8. Dialogue 2

我走不到那條路。 張先生家在大華路後頭一條小路上。 I'm unable to arrive at that road. Mr. Zhang's home is located at Great China Road after the beginning of a small road. 

 

I'm totally confused. Does 後頭 mean "behind" in this context (it wasn't a word given in the glossary). If that's the case, I would translate it as his home being on Great/Big CHina Road behind a small road. 

 

RESOLVED 9. Narrative 6

在賣車的時候毛先生説過了要在過年以前給他錢。明天就是今年最後一天了。張先生沒有錢,給不了。張先生想在過年以後給錢。毛先生對張先生說:“在賣車的時候我就對你説了,要在過年以前給錢,因爲我過年的時候要用錢,要不然我也不賣車了”

When the car was sold, Mr. Ma said he wants to be paid before new year. Tomorrow is this year's last day. Mr. Zhang has no money and is unable to pay. Mr. Zhang would like to pay after New Year. Mr. Ma says to Mr. Zhang: "When the car was being sold, I said pay before New Year because when it's New Year's I need to use the money. Otherwise, I wouldn't have sold the car!"

 

A couple questions: why is 在 used all of the time (for example, 在賣車的時候)? Does it add any meaning? I'm taking it to me "right at" the time the car was sold. 

 

Second, what is the meaning of the 也 in the final sentence? I literally read it as "Otherwise, I also wouldn't have sold the car." 

 

RESOLVED 10. Narrative 13

他們先到中國的東北,又從東北來船到山東。They first arrived in China's Northeast (Dongbei), and then from Dongbei took a boat to Shandong. 

 

I'm curious about the 又 -- I've seen it used to mean "another" or "again." Typically, it means "again" if before verbs. Thing is, the dialogue doesn't indicate that previously had taken a boat... so I am not seeing how I could literally translate it as "again" in this case. 

Edited by laowhiner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Altair

I want to make a comment about these examples; however, I have not followed most of this thread, and so apologize in advance if I am rehashing old issues.

 

Using short sentences as building blocks to create complex sentences and illustrate grammatical transformations is one of very many sound strategies to learn languages, including Chinese.  One issue for Chinese, however, is that the grammar of Chinese main clauses is slightly different from the grammar of subordinate clauses, at least from an English-speaking point of view.  The importance of this fact is that you cannot completely rely on the appropriateness of some of the sentences used in the examples, even though the larger grammatical principal may be sound.  Many of the sentences seem unusual or awkward in some way, even if they are not blatantly ungrammatical.  I can get more technical about this, but don't want to veer off into intermediate or advanced grammar issues, many of which I, myself, only have a hazy understanding of.

 

上下文

 

This can often be translated as "context," but the literal meaning is "above/below text."

 

兩三個字

 

I am perhaps being picky, but this is not "one or two," but rather "two or three."  Better yet, you can think often think of it as "a few."

 

就不能明白

 

A good translation should capture the flavor of 能.  Rather than "won't understand," I would suggest "can't understand" or "it is not possible for it to be clear."

 

學生說

 

If you say "a student" in English, this strongly implies you are introducing an unknown individual to the conversation.  In Chinese, when a noun is put before a verb in topic position, this strongly implies that what is referenced is known to the listener.  Usually Chinese topics represent things that in English would be definite or, occasionally, generic nouns.

 

In this case, I think the Chinese is similar to what we do in English when we tell a fable, such as the tortoise and the hare.  Saying "the tortoise," rather than "a tortoise," implies that the tortoise will stand in for what the listener thinks of is typical about all tortoises or perhaps that the listener should imagine a limited community of known individuals and thus again "the tortoise" and his/her characteristics will be quite familiar and distinct from those of "the hare."  In this case, we imagine a typical teacher-student relationship.  The sentences is saying that "the teacher said this, but the student, representing typical students in that situation, said that."  It is not really calling out a random student whose difficulties are personal to him or her.

 

上下文都要看嗎

 

The character 都 is an adverb and not a pronoun.  It never literally equates to "everyone."  A simplified understanding of it is that it indicates that one topic of the sentence is a number of things or people and that the following comment applies to those things/people as individuals and not just to the group of things as a whole.  In this case, there are two things implicitly referenced: 上文 and 下文.  Remember that 上下文 is literally "above/below text" and thus is implicitly two things, and not just "context," which implies only one thing.

 

 

It is best never to equate this word only with "see," but rather with "look."  It implies an action, but not a result.  "See" usually applies to a result.  In the case of text and things that contain text, this word usually means "read," which is a more specific kind of "looking."

 

 

上下文都要看嗎 and 有的看上文

 

Because of English habits and the simplified explanations of most grammar books, most readers will take 上下文 and  有的 to be the subject of their respective sentences.  Chinese actually does not work that way.  In the first sentence, 上下文 is the topic of 看.  A literal translation would be: "As for the above and below text, with respect to both/each is it necessary to read?"  In the second sentence (有的看上文) the grammatical mood of 看 will be understood to repeat its earlier occurrences, unless something forces a different interpretation.  If you understand 有的 to be the subject, you will think 看 has to be indicative and describe reality.  In fact, it is like an imperative, and so indicates a command.  A literal translation would be: "with respect to some, read (the) above text."

 

 

2. Building up 2 
我有好的字典。I have a good dictionary. 
我有比這個好的字典。 The dictionary I have is better than this one.

I think the Chinese in these sentences is a little odd, but a native speaker would be a much better judge than me.  Chinese does not systematically distinguish between "good" and "better," but many contexts strongly imply one meaning over the other.  Using 好 by itself usually implies just "being the good one given the contextual choices."  It also means "good" when it fuses with what follows to create a category of things (i.e., 好朋友 "good friend")  Using 很好 means "good (in the absolute)," and using 更好 means "(even) better."  In a structure with  "X 比," 好 will always mean "better."

 

The second sentence is supposed to mean: "I have a dictionary that is better than this one."  The build up would be: 我有字典, 我有好的字典, 我有比這個好的字典.  Again, this is pushing the limits of what would normally be said in Chinese, but is a good illustration of the sentence transformations.

 

 

 

3. Pitfalls 1
我今天買了一本書,很好。I bought a book today. It was very good. 
我今天買的一本書很好。A very good book that I bought today.

The second sentence should be: "The book (that) I bought today is very good."

 

 

 

4. Pitfalls 4
她在書店看過的那四本字典很好。 Those four good dictionaries she saw in the bookstore today. 
她在書店看過的是日本字典不是?Is it a Japanese dictionary that she read/saw in a bookstore?

The first sentence should be: "Those/The four books (that) she had seen/saw in the bookstore today are/were very good."

 

The second one should be: "Is/Was the one she had seen/saw a Japanese dictionary?

 

 

6. Practice on Relative Clauses 5
那本字典比這個好。 That dictionary is better than this one. 
我們沒有比這本好的字典。 We don't have a dictionary that is as good as this one.
The second sentence is one of those that sound strange to me.  I think it has to mean: "We don't have a dictionary/dictionaries (that is/are) better than this one."  The Chinese equivalents to "as good as" and "not as good as" tend to use structures that are different from what are presented here.  English has similar subtle issues, but a different range of structures.  The Chinese as written means that the dictionaries might be equally good; whereas the English means that the dictionaries cannot be equally good.
 

 

7. Dialogue 1
你來的時候看見華先生他們了嗎? When you were coming, did you see Mr. Hua's family? 
I am not sure what pronoun + tamen means. Is my assumption correct here that it means family or your people?

The characters 華先生他們 mean that the group 他們 refers to includes or can be characterized by 華先生.  English does not have such a structure, so you have to fudge a translation.  The meaning is something like "Mr. Hua and them/and the group/and company/and the guys/and such."  The meaning of 他們 is contextually determined and does not imply anything specific like "family."

 

 

8. Dialogue 2
我走不到那條路。 張先生家在大華路後頭一條小路上。 I'm unable to arrive at that road. Mr. Zhang's home is located at Great China Road after the beginning of a small road. 
 
I'm totally confused. Does 後頭 mean "behind" in this context (it wasn't a word given in the glossary). If that's the case, I would translate it as his home being on Great/Big CHina Road behind a small road.

走不到

 

This probably means "can't walk (all the way) to," rather than "unable to arrive at."

 

As for 後頭, Chinese has a limited set of about a dozen one-syllable place words that correspond to English prepositions that indicate place.  The Chinese words have a long version and a short version.  This second syllable, especially in northern China, can be 頭 for most of these words.  Its original meaning in such combinations was probably "end," but now it has no more real meaning than "side" in such English words as "inside" and "outside."  Other choices for the second syllable can be 面 or 邊.  Thus, 後頭, 後面, and 後邊 all have the same meaning: "behind" or "in back of."

 

 

9. Narrative 6
在賣車的時候毛先生説過了要在過年以前給他錢。明天就是今年最後一天了。張先生沒有錢,給不了。張先生想在過年以後給錢。毛先生對張先生說:“在賣車的時候我就對你説了,要在過年以前給錢,因爲我過年的時候要用錢,要不然我也不賣車了”
When the car was sold, Mr. Ma said he wants to be paid before new year. Tomorrow is this year's last day. Mr. Zhang has no money and is unable to pay. Mr. Zhang would like to pay after New Year. Mr. Ma says to Mr. Zhang: "When the car was being sold, I said pay before New Year because when it's New Year's I need to use the money. Otherwise, I wouldn't have sold the car!"

Chinese is much more scrupulous about differentiating between actions and results than English, which often uses the same word for both.  If you say "When the car was sold, ...), there is a strong implication that ownership of the car changed hands.  In Chinese, 賣 just refers to the action, including typical results, but leaves open which result actually occurs.  In English, you can also say "put on sale" to exclude a reference to the change of ownership, but the default in Chinese is to leave the result vague, unless critical to the context.  I would translate 在賣車的時候 as "when selling a/the car," leaving open whether a final sale actually took place.  Similarly, I would translate 要不然我也不賣車了 as "Otherwise, I won't sell the car.

 

 

A couple questions: why is 在 used all of the time (for example, 在賣車的時候)? Does it add any meaning? I'm taking it to me "right at" the time the car was sold.

The word 在 is used to introduce phrases indicating location in space or in time.  At the beginning of a sentence, it can usually (maybe always?) be omitted, leaving what follows to stand simply as a topic on its own.  In some writing styles, 當 can also be used to indicate a location in time, but neither 在 nor 當 adds anything to the meaning.

 

 

Second, what is the meaning of the 也 in the final sentence? I literally read it as "Otherwise, I also wouldn't have sold the car."

In this usage, 也 is not translated.  I think the meaning it adds, however, is a feeling of hesitancy, signaling that the statement is one more reason for the speaker not to act in the way under discussion.

 

 

10. Narrative 13
他們先到中國的東北,又從東北來船到山東。They first arrived in China's Northeast (Dongbei), and then from Dongbei took a boat to Shandong. 
 
I'm curious about the 又 -- I've seen it used to mean "another" or "again." Typically, it means "again" if before verbs. Thing is, the dialogue doesn't indicate that previously had taken a boat... so I am not seeing how I could literally translate it as "again" in this case.
This is one of those sentences that sound strange to me.  Aside from meaning "again," particularly for actions in the past, 又 can sometimes have a feeling of "on top of that."  One destination was Dongbei; and, on top of that, they went to Shandong.  As for "船到山東," is that a typo for "傳到山東"?  I don't think 來船 is used as a phrase, nor that 船 can be used as a verb in modern Chinese.
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...