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Simple "noun + adjective" sentences

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In English, nouns can be "linked" to adjectives and other nouns with the verb to be. In Chinese, nouns are linked to other nouns in one way, but linked to adjectives in a completely different way. Nouns are linked to other nouns with 是 (shì). Nouns are linked to adjectives with 很 (hěn).

Structure

Noun + 很 + Adj.

The noun in this structure is the subject of the sentence. Sometimes the 很 (hěn) in this structure is translated as "very", but often it is just a way to link a noun to an adjective.

Examples

In the following examples, 很 (hěn) is just a link (you could think of it as a substitute for the verb "to be"), and the sentences could be translated as "(Noun) is (adjective)".

  • 好。 hěn hǎo. I'm good.
  • 漂亮。 hěn piàoliang. You are pretty.
  • 高兴。 hěn gāoxìng. He is happy.
  • 中文 难。 Zhōngwén hěn nán. Chinese is difficult.
  • 老板 生气。 Lǎobǎn hěn shēngqì. The boss is angry.
  • 我们 累。 Wǒmen hěn lèi. We're tired.
  • 我 哥哥 也 高。 Wǒ gēge yě hěn gāo. My older brother is also tall.
  • 你 家 也 远 吗? Nǐ jiā yě hěn yuǎn ma? Is your house also far away?
  • 爸爸 忙,妈妈 也 很 忙。 Bàba hěn máng, māma yě hěn máng. Dad is busy, and mom is also busy.
  • 他 和 他 弟弟 都 帅。 Tā hé tā dìdi dōu hěn shuài. He and his younger brother are both handsome.

Remember that 是 (shì) is not used to link adjectives to nouns. This is a classic mistake that almost everyone makes when learning Chinese. Make sure you use 很 (hěn) and not 是 (shì) to link adjectives to nouns, as shown below:

  • 高。shì gāo.
  • 高。 hěn gāo. He is tall.

What 很 (hěn) Really Means

If you're like most learners, when you first learn this pattern, you're thinking, "how can 很 (hěn) mean "very" one minute, but then nothing but a "link" the next? How do I know if anything means anything in this language?" That's a reasonable response. But in the case of these "Noun + Adj." sentences, you just have to think of this usage of 很 (hěn) as an exception. It's just part of the structure.

If you actually want to add the meaning of "very" into the sentence, you could use another adverb instead of 很 (hěn). One good choice is 非常 (fēicháng).

  • 高 。 hěn gāo. He is tall.
  • 非常 高 。fēicháng gāo.He is very tall.

See also

Sources and further reading

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