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Comparing "turan" and "huran"

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Both 突然 (tūrán) and 忽然 (hūrán) express the something happens in a very short time or is unexpected. Both can be translated as "unexpectedly" or "surprisingly," however, 突然 is a bit harsher in tone while 忽然 is a bit softer. Also, their grammatical features are subtly different, as outlined in this article.

Both 突然 and 忽然 can be used as Adverbs

突然 and 忽然 both can put in the sentence as adverbs or adjectives, just make sure to put them before the verb or the adjective!

Before a Verb

突然/忽然 + Verb

Examples

  • 睡觉 的 时候,我 的 电话突然 响了。While I was sleeping, my phone suddenly started to ring.
  • 睡觉 的 时候,我 的 电话忽然 响了。While I was sleeping, my phone suddenly started to ring.
  • 他 说着说着突然 不 说 了。 He was talking and talking, and suddenly stopped.
  • 他 说着说着忽然 不 说 了。 He was talking and talking, and suddenly stopped.

Before an Adjective

突然/忽然 + Adj.

Examples

  • 突然 暗 了。
  • 忽然 暗 了。The sky suddenly got dark.
  • 突然 不 亮 了。
  • 忽然 不 亮 了。The lights suddenly went out

At the Beginning of a Sentence

You can place 突然 and 忽然 at the beginning of a sentence, just make sure to add a comma after it!

Structure

突然/忽然,⋯⋯

Examples

  • 突然,他 进来 了。
  • 忽然,他 进来 了。Suddenly, he entered.

突然 can be used as an Adjective

突然 can be used as an adjective (directly modifying nouns), while 忽然 cannot.

Structure as an Adjective

突然 + (的) + Noun

Examples

  • 这 是 一 场 突然 事故,我们 都 没 想到。This was a sudden accident. None of us thought it could happen.
  • 你 知道 怎么 处理 这 种 突然 的 情况 吗?Do you know how to handle this kind of sudden situation?

突然 can be used as a complement

突然 as an adjective can also be used as a complement (called 补语 in Chinese). 忽然 cannot be used as a complement.

Structure for verb and complement

Subj. + Verb + 得 + 突然

Examples

  • 事情 发生 得 太 突然,我们 不 知道 怎么 办。Things happened so suddenly, we didn't know what to do.
  • 这 场 雨 下 得 太 突然,都 淋湿 了。This rain fell so suddenly, everything got soaked.

突然 can be used as the predicate

Just like other adjectives, 突然 can be used as the predicate of a sentence. It is usually added with a modifier like 很, 非常, 不 etc. It can also end with 得很, 得多, 极了, etc. complements.

Structure with modifier + 突然

Subj. + Modifier + 突然

Examples

  • 这 个 决定 太 突然 了。This decision was too sudden.
  • 对 她 来说,这 次 升职 其实 不 突然To her, this promotion wasn't actually surprising.

Structure with 突然 + modifier

Subj. + 突然 + Modifier

Examples

  • 离开 上海 突然 得 很。Leaving Shanghai is really surprising.
  • 这 次 生病 比 上 次 突然 得 多。Getting sick this time is much more surprising than the last time.

Example of right and wrong sentences

  • 这 个 决定 很 忽然
  • 这 个 决定 很 突然突然 can be a predicate, while 忽然 cannot.
  • 一切 发生 得 太 忽然
  • 一切 发生 得 太 突然突然 can be a complement, but 忽然 cannot.

Example Dialog

  • A: 我 正在 睡觉,忽然 电话响了,是 Amy 打 来 的。I was sleeping, when suddenly the phone rang. It was Amy.
  • B: 她 说 什么?What did she say?
  • A: 她 结婚 了。She got married.
  • B: 啊,这 个 消息 太突然 了。Oh, this news is really sudden.

Sources and further reading

Books

Dictionaries