Emphatic adverb "ke"

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可 (kě) can be used to intensify an adjective, or to add emphasis to a verb. It is stronger than other modifiers, as 可 compares the speaker‘s expectations with the actual situation. The meaning of 可 is very reliant on context.

可 is generally used by Northern speakers and is informal, generally only used in spoken Chinese.

可 Used to Intensify an Adjective


可 + Adj. + 了

The 了 is almost always there, but it's not 100%.


In these examples, 可 is used a bit like 很, as it is used to intensify an adjective:

  • 这 只 小 狗 淘气 了!The speaker never expected puppies to be this naughtyZhè zhǐ xiǎo gǒu táoqì le!This puppy is so naughty!
  • 我 姐姐 好 了!有 什么 好吃 的 都 给 我 留着。Wǒ jiějie hǎo le! Yǒu shénme hǎochī de dōu gěi wǒ liúzhe.My sister is great! Any good food there is she saves some for me.
  • 优秀 了!你 不 想 见见 吗? yōuxiù le! Nǐ bù xiǎng jiànjian ma?He is really excellent! Don't you want to meet him?
  • 这 个 游戏 好玩 了!推荐 给 你。Zhège yóuxì hǎowán le! Tuījiàn gěi nǐ.This game is really fun! I recommend it to you.
  • 哇 ,这 个 糖醋 里脊 好吃 了!The speaker never dreamt that sweet and sour pork could taste this goodWa, zhège tángcù lǐjí hǎochī le!Wow! This sweet and sour pork is delicious!

可 Used to Emphasize a Verb


可 + Verb Phrase

了 is not needed in this pattern, but may be present.


In these examples 可 is used with 别, and sounds a bit like "don't even think about..." in English.

  • 别 喝 太 多 酒。 I know you usually drink a lot, but NOT THIS TIME bié hē tài duō jiǔ.Don't drink too much.
  • 别 走! I'm blocking your way, almost pleading with you, as I believe you are going to leave bié zǒu!Don't go!
  • 不 能 这样 说。 What you said doesn't accord with my own beliefsHuà bù néng zhèyàng shuō.You really can't say that.

可 as "Finally"

Sometimes 可 acts like 终于 (zhōngyú), meaning "finally."


可 + Verb Phrase + 了

了 will pretty much always be needed when you're talking about something "finally" happening.


  • 来 了! The speaker never expected it would take so long for you to get here lái le!You're finally here!
  • 做 完 了 所有 的 工作。 zuò wán le suǒyǒu de gōngzuò.I've finally finished all the work.

Sources and further reading