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Expressing "mistakenly think that" with "yiwei"

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When we talk about mistaken beliefs in English, we just use the word "thought," and the context and the rest of the sentence makes clear that we were wrong. In Chinese, there's a specific verb just for "think mistakenly": 以为 (yǐwéi).

Structure

In English, the verb "to think" can apply to both correct and incorrect notions. Chinese has a specific verb for "to mistakenly think that": 以为 (yǐwéi). Literally, these two characters mean, "take to be," i.e. someone takes one thing to be something else.

Subj. + 以为 ⋯⋯

The part that follows 以为 will be a whole phrase that is actually incorrect information. Note that while it's quite common to refer to things that happened in the past, it could also refer to a situation in the present or even the future. It can also be used for commands, usually of the negative "don't think that..." type.

Examples

  • 以为 他 是 英国 人 。yǐwéi tā shì Yīngguó rén.I thought he was British.
  • 我们 以为 你 不 在 家 。Wǒmen yǐwéi nǐ bù zài jiā .We thought you weren't at home.
  • 同事 们 都 以为 我 二十 岁 。Tóngshì men dōu yǐwéi wǒ èrshí suì.My colleagues all thought I was twenty.
  • 我们 都 以为 你 生气 了 。Wǒmen dōu yǐwéi nǐ shēngqì le.We all thought you were angry.
  • 老师 以为 学生 都 听懂 了 。Lǎoshī yǐwéi xuéshēng dōu tīngdǒng le.The teacher thought all the students understood.
  • 不要 以为 他 是 你的 朋友 。Bùyào yǐwéi tā shì nǐ de péngyou.Don't think that he's your friend.
  • 她 是 你 外婆 ?我 以为 是 你 妈妈 。Tā shì nǐ wàipó? Wǒ yǐwéi shì nǐ māma.She's your grandma? I thought she was your mother.
  • 你 去 吃 四川 火锅 了 ?我 以为 你 不 爱 吃 辣 。Nǐ qù chī Sìchuān huǒguō le? Wǒ yǐwéi nǐ bù ài chī là.You went to eat Sichuan hotpot? I thought you don't like eating spicy food.
  • 你们 分手 了 ?我 以为 你们 还 在一起 。Nǐmen fēnshǒu le? Wǒ yǐwéi nǐmen hái zài yīqǐ.You guys broke up? I thought you were still together.
  • 我 看到 那 张 照片 ,以为 你 有 男朋友 了 。 Wǒ kàndào nà zhāng zhàopiàn, yǐwéi nǐ yǒu nánpéngyou le.I saw that picture and I thought you had a boyfriend.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books