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. 
IanK

When to use shi 是?

Recommended Posts

IanK

Hello,

 

I'm new at learning Chinese and have a question about when shì is used. From what I understand: 她是大学生 is correct... She IS a college student. But then you don't use shi when you say 她是高...She IS tall, you just say 她高。

 

Can someone help understand when I should use shi and when I don't.

 

谢谢

 

Ian

 

  • Good question! 1

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.

somethingfunny

是 is used to connect two nouns or pronouns. In your first example it is connecting the pronoun "She" and the noun "university student".

 

It can't be used in the second because 是 is not used to connect nouns or pronouns to adjectives - "tall" is an adjective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gwr71

Dear Newbie,

The confusion is the use of shi as a noun or state verb.  A state verb is translated as "to be...." .  so "to be tall " is  高。the sentence she is tall is : 她高。  the word " student" is 学生。

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Publius

In your first sentence 她是大学生, 是 is similar to the English linking verb 'to be'. But similar doesn't mean the same.

In English, a linking verb joins the subject of a sentence to its complement. The complement can be a noun, "She is a student"; an adjective, "She is tall"; or a prepositional phrase, "She is at home".

In other words,

Sentence = Subject + Predicate

Predicate = Linking Verb + Complemnt

 

But in Chinese and some Asian languages, an adjective can predicate a sentence by itself. They are not the same adjectives as you know in European languages. They are stative verbs. (It's more apparent in Japanese, where the so-called adjectives conjugate like a verb, that is, according to tense, mood, etc.)

So technically, 高 doesn't mean 'tall', it means 'to be tall'.

她 (Subject 'She') + 高 (Predicate 'is tall') is a complete sentence. No room for an extra 是.

 

This is also why 的 is used to link an adjective to the noun it modifies the same way it turns a verbal phrase into a relative clause.

漂亮的她 ✔ 'she, who is beautiful'

漂亮她 ✘

我买的书 ✔ 'the book that I bought'

我买书 ✘ (a sentence, not a noun phrase)

Because 漂亮 is a stative verb. There is no true 'adjective' in Chinese.

Also 她 is a noun. There is no true 'pronoun' in Chinese.

They are just called adjectives and pronouns for convenience sake. They behave differently from their European counterparts.

  • Like 2
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
IanK

This is so very helpful thank you all. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DavyJonesLocker

These two are very useful for grammar and explain all the uses of 是。

I would buy both as the 2nd one has some very good chapters of the use of 是。 You can dip in and out of them from beginner stage 

Oh and if you can do the exercises you will know your grammar !

 

Basic Chinese Grammar

Intermediate Chinese Grammar

 

 

On 10/22/2017 at 8:49 AM, Publius said:

 

她 (Subject 'She') + 高 (Predicate 'is tall') is a complete sentence. No room for an extra 是.


 

On 10/22/2017 at 3:18 AM, somethingfunny said:

It can't be used in the second because 是 is not used to connect nouns or pronouns to adjectives - "tall" is an adjective.

 

well 是 can be used with adjectives for certain circumstances, right? (Stative verbs? @Publius.)

e.g.

 

for emphasis

A) 那个人那么高

B) 她是很高!

 

or element reservation

那个孩子是很聪明但是有点儿懒

 

non-gradable adjs

我的老师是男的

 

Open to correction. My grammar is rusty to say the least!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Publius

@DavyJonesLockerYes, but in the first two sentences, 是 does not serve as a linking verb. To prove it, I can remove the 是 and the sentence remains grammatical (only the tone changes). Actually 很 is more like a linking verb here.

This usage of 是 indicates an agreement with the interlocutor. It's the same 是 used to concede a point. It turns a general statement into an acknowledgement of a specific fact. Notice what follows this 是 can be a verbal element, e.g. 我是没吃饭但是我不饿, further proof that it is not a linking verb.

 

In the third sentence, I disagree with your classification of 男的 as an adjective. I can insert a classifier 一个 before it, so it must be a noun phrase. Whether 男/女 is an adjective is open to debate. But 男的/女的 certainly is not. One of the main functions of 的 is nominalization. It turns anything before it into a noun phrase, including normal verbs, e.g. 我的老师是教体育的. Actually, that's how the 是...的 construction works: 是 expects a noun, 的 turns everything into a noun, satisfying the expectation. Can I therefore conclude that 是 can be used with anything? I hardly think so.

That last sentence in fact proved my point, that Chinese "adjectives" are verbs. There is no adjectives in Chinese. Whether they are gradable is moot.

 

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×