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Help me stop saying "so" - 所以 in Chinese


杰.克
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Dear all,

 

I've noticed that i often use "所以“ incorrectly when I speak Mandarin, and  not just me, it is something that  my fellow Brit Mandarin speakers get wrong also. "So" in english is a really useful, and incredibly flexible word . I frequently use it to connect sentences. I also use it to start new sentences. Basically i just bloody use it all the time.

 

In Chinese however, its not really appropriate. "所以“ from my understanding, is used with ”因为“. Its an action and a consequence. Because of this, that happened etc.  I ate chocolate, so I became fat. This type of thing.

 

This being said, what can I replace "so" with? In my head I'm looking for a kinda of sentence starter filler word. I thought "那么“ might be a good shout?

 

Apologies if I have not been clear enough. Its hard for me to explain just how frequently and flexibly I use "so' in my normal day talk. Its hard for me to pin down what I'm looking for. If you do understand my plight though, and have any suggestions please let me know. I guess english tongue speakers, will likely have come across this issue at some point.

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In this respect, I'd say Chinese and English are the same: you'll sound more polished if you can avoid filler words.

 

"So we shall fight on the beaches, so we shall fight on the landing grounds, so we shall fight in the fields and in the streets too, so we shall fight in the hills; and, uh, so we shall never surrender."

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结果... might be useful. I wonder if both 因此 and 于是 are too formal/书面 ?

 

Edit: I misread your post ("so I became fat").

 

Yeah 那么 springs to mind. But perhaps the Chinese equivalent might be 其实 - it is overused in spoken Chinese to the extent it doesn't have to carry that "actually..." meaning?

 

How about a 从而? Not sure I really know when to use that.

And actually, I do think 结果 would work now and again too, it's a good sentence (or clause) starter.

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34 minutes ago, 杰.克 said:

"So" in english is a really useful, and incredibly flexible word . I frequently use it to connect sentences. I also use it to start new sentences. Basically i just bloody use it all the time.

 

This is a relatively recent affectation I think... As a Brit who's lived overseas for the last 10 years I really notice it now when I watch the BBC quiz "Pointless". 

 

Every. Single. Contestant. Starts their self-introduction with "So... I..."   As @889 says, it's meaningless filler.  (Not that there's anything wrong with filler words per se, they are a part of everyday conversational language.)

 

At one point in the 1980s's everyone in the UK was addicted to "Basically".  And around it goes...


In China these days a similar filler word is neige.

 

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2 minutes ago, mungouk said:

This is a relatively recent affectation I think...

 

Yes pretty new. Some kind of tone-softener? I think it came to the UK from the US. Did it replace starting a sentence with "like"?  Sometimes I think it's a way of saying like you, I'm so humble that ordinarily I wouldn't possibly want to say anything about ME or tell you MY opinion, but ... since you ask ...

... but that may be overthinking it.

Wonder if 这样 or 是这样的 would work too?

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6 minutes ago, realmayo said:

Did it replace starting a sentence with "like"?

 

Or "well...", or "actually..." etc

 

Plus now we have "to be honest", "to be fair"

 

Even my Chinese students here write "to be honest" in their essays!  (And I can guarantee they weren't infected by me...)

 

 

 

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45 minutes ago, 杰.克 said:

This being said, what can I replace "so" with? In my head I'm looking for a kinda of sentence starter filler word. I thought "那么“ might be a good shout?

 

Kind of impossible to answer this as you haven't given any examples of where you incorrectly use 所以. The best way to reword will depend on the context.

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There's an argument that the "hwæt" at the start of Beowulf is basically, "So...",  at least that was how Heaney did it, so it's not that recent an affectation.

 

ETA Though looking it up it seems it's a bad argument, so maybe scratch that https://www.mhpbooks.com/did-everyone-get-the-first-line-of-beowulf-wrong-or-did-seamus-heaney-get-it-right/

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There is a balance here.  As 889 points out, you'll sound more polished if you can avoid using them.  However, we all use filler words to so some extent.

 

One of the roles in a Toastmasters meeting is an "Ah counter" for English meetings or 哼哈官 for Chinese meetings.  The ah counter counts how many of each filler word each person used.  Using a few is Ok.  However, if a person uses 15 "like" in a 1-2 minute talk, they are hurting themselves (and have no idea they are doing this).  My experience has been native English speakers use more filler words than Chinese (this is just a general trend.  Some native English speakers use very very few and some Chinse use many).

 

Common English language fillers are ah, um, you know, like, so, basically, and a few others.  As Munguok noted, 那个 is a Chinese one.  Other Chinese ones are 嗯  啊   就是说   而且   但是    因此  (And as Munguok noted, there are appropriate use of these words as well except 嗯  啊 ).  

 

Following the comments above, it would be interesting to see which are the more common filler words used by Americans, Brits, Aussies, etc....  At one point in the US, Valley Girl speech was characterized by the use of lots of "like".  However, it's still common with some people.  

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6 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

At one point in the US, Valley Girl speech was characterized by the use of lots of "like".  However, it's still common with some people.  

 

Are you kidding?   It's taken over the English-speaking planet!

 

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6 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

you'll sound more polished if you can avoid using them. 

 

In formal contexts yes, and  this is why I included the word "conversational" in my answer.


One of the traps for language learners is failing to take account of register and context. So for instance it grates a bit when my students or Chinese colleagues use "gonna" or "wanna" in an email, but in everyday conversation I would hardly notice it.

 

Back to Chinese, there's a useful list of "Informal Function Words and Formal Equivalents" on the Chinese Grammar Wiki:

 

https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Formal_and_informal_function_words

 

 

 

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As others have said, “那麼” is the answer to your problem. Although I’ve found 那麼 to be quite formal, and in everyday speech you can just use “那...”.

 

I have a friend whose Chinese is awesome but he would always say “所以” whenever he meant “so” in English and it took me a while to figure out why it wasn’t quite right.

 

Hopefully, once you become more conscious of the problem you’ll stop using anything at all and just say the thing you want to say.

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it's a speech filler, eh.

 

when responding to someone, you could take time to think of your response by saying, "umm" and "and" and "let me think," these would be acceptable alternatives.

 

you can also try mirroring, where you restate the last words the other person says

 

i use "so" in a chinese accent, sort of, to my wife when I am explaining a multi-step/state statement. I use "so" because my professor in college used it and I enjoyed the use.

 

all the best

 

RJ

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