Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

A few questions regarding this sentence.


Recommended Posts

  • New Members

So I was just trying to translate this sentence:


I don’t need it translated anymore since I get the gist of it, but I have a few questions regarding the grammar of this sentence.

For starters, why is 是死 used in this sentence? I understand that 就算是死 means something like “even if it kills me” or “even if it’s to die,” but shouldn’t 是 only be used to connect nouns (unless it’s a word component)? 死 isn’t listed as a noun in the dictionary I use (Pleco).

How does the 是.....的 structure work in this sentence? Just in general, as an HSK-1 learner, I find that the shi...de structure is the most difficult thing for me to understand. I’ve went through several websites and videos explaining it, but I still don’t get the fundamentals behind it.


But my main question is, what’s the purpose of the question mark in written Chinese? When I see 难道, I know to substitute it for “could it be” in the sentence, or when I see 呢, I know to substitute it for “on the other hand?,” and when I see 吗, I know to turn it into a yes/no question. But seeing the question mark at the end, I can’t figure out how it impact the sentence, or what it indicates.


Thanks for answering my questions in advance.

  • Good question! 1
Link to comment
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.

Giuseppe Romanazzi

Hi, you asked:


1) Why is 是死 used in this sentence?

2) Shouldn’t  only be used to connect nouns (unless it’s a word component)?

3) How does the 是.....的 structure work in this sentence?

4) What’s the purpose of the question mark in written Chinese?


Anyway, may I first ask you to provide the source of that sentence? Is it online? I'd be happy to read at least the whole paragraph.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the main answer to all of your questions, and hundreds more questions you will have in the future about Chinese grammar, is that most rules are more like suggestions, and especially in spoken Chinese they often are broken.  (The trick is figuring out how to break them in the "right" way, like a native speaker would.  This takes lots of language exposure to develop the proper intuition, but don't worry about practicing it actively.)  You can (situationally) ask questions without using question words in Chinese.  You can (situationally) use the 是。。。的 structure but omit the 的.  (However, I will say I don't think this is actually a 是。。。的 pattern, because if I try to add a 的 it doesn't sound right.  死 is probably a verb or noun here.)


So while it's necessary for you to learn these grammar rules and practice using them yourself, you can't let it bother you too much when native speakers break them.


Think back to your elementary or middle school teachers who always told you: "No incomplete sentences allowed!  All sentences must have a subject and a verb!"  And then you're reading some famous novel by a famous author who throws this idea out the window and you realize such rules just don't reflect how the world actually works.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

The two most plausible complete forms for (1) could be (2a-b):

Very similar notwithstanding, the two sentences are structurally very different. I parsed them below (with necessary omission of technical details):


I personally prefer (2b/3b).
The take home message is that the pair ...是i...的j in (1) doesn't make a pair at all (note the subscripts I used to indicate their relations). It is the ...是j...的j that makes a pair, though 是j (and的j, too) is redundant in (1).

The idea that a word or structure has a single or very limited function(s) is practically helpful yet theoretically wrong.

Lastly, the question mark here is absolutely absurd. Unless a theatrical context is provided to license/justify the question mark, it would otherwise be an error.

Link to comment
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.

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...