Reduplication of adjectives
One of the charming features of Chinese is reduplication (repeating, or doubling up) of certain words and characters, including adjectives. Reduplication can enhance the descriptive feeling of an adjective.
One-Syllable Adjectives (AA)
If an adjective is only one syllable (one character), then reduplicating it is a no-brainer. The only tricky part about this pattern is that not all adjectives can be reduplicated in natural speech. It's mostly for adjectives that describe the physical world: colors, sizes, shapes, and other physical descriptors.
Adj. + Adj. + 的 (+ Noun)
In most Chinese textbooks and grammar books, this is known as the "AA" pattern. We'll be using this form more extensively below:
A A + 的 (+ Noun)
Note that this pattern is also identical to single-syllable reduplication of verbs.
- 你 的 脸 红 红 的 。Your face is red.
- 宝宝 的 眼睛 大 大 的 。The baby's eyes are big.
- 今晚 的 月亮 圆 圆 的 。The moon is round tonight.
- 她 爸爸 高 高 胖 胖 的 。Her father is tall and fat.
- 我 妹妹 瘦 瘦 小 小 的 。My little sister is thin and small.
Two-Syllable Adjectives (AABB)
If the adjective has more than one character, then you should repeat each character individually (rather than the whole word). This is known as the "AABB" pattern.
In the structure below, the original two-character adjective (such as 高兴, 漂亮) is "AB," where the first character of the adjective is represented by "A," and the second by "B."
A A B B + 的 (+ Noun)
Not all two-syllable adjectives are used in AABB form, but here are some common examples of AB adjectives represented in AABB form.
- 高兴 → 高高兴兴 happy
- 热闹 → 热热闹闹 noisy, boisterous
- 漂亮 → 漂漂亮亮 pretty
- 舒服 → 舒舒服服 comfortable
- 安静 → 安安静静 quiet and still
Not all adjectives can take AABB form. Here are some examples of common adjectives that don't work in AABB form.
- 好吃 → 好好吃吃 tasty
- 便宜 → 便便宜宜 cheap
- 麻烦 → 麻麻烦烦 bothersome
Used as Adverbs (AABB)
When adjectives are used as adverbs to modify verbs, you can reduplicate the adjective using the AABB pattern.
AABB + 地 + Verb
Note: The "AABB" pattern for reduplication of two-syllable adjectives contrasts with the "ABAB" pattern for reduplication of two-syllable verbs.
- 我们 清清楚楚 地 看到 他 跟 一 个 胖 胖 的 男人 上 车 了 。We clearly saw him get in the car with a fat man.
- 我 真 想 舒舒服服 地 躺 在 沙发 上 看 电视 。I'd really like to comfortably lie on the couch and watch TV.
- 你 妈妈 辛辛苦苦 地 做 了 两 个 小时 的 饭，你 怎么 不 吃 ？Your mother labored over this meal for two hours, and you aren't going to eat it?
Used as Predicates (ABAB)
If you use an adjective as a predicate, then you're basically using the adjective like a verb, and you reduplicate it as you would a verb, which means ABAB form. Using an adjective in this way is roughly equivalent to using 一下 after the (non-reduplicated) adjective.
To use a reduplicated adjective as a predicate, follow this structure:
Subj. + ABAB
Subj. + AB + 一下
In the pattern above there's no verb because when an adjective serves as the predicate, it does the job of a verb. Notice also that there's no 的 after the ABAB, because 的 is used when modifying nouns.
- 妹妹 快 过 生日 了 ，我 打算 给 她 办 一 个 生日 派对 ，热闹 热闹 。My little sister's birthday is coming and I plan to throw her a birthday party and have a blast.
- 来 ，喝 点 酒 ，高兴 高兴 。Come on, have a little wine and enjoy yourself.
- 到 这里 来 凉快 凉快 。Come over here and cool off.
- 我 想 去 外面 走走 ，安静 一下 。I'd like to take a walk outside, get some quiet time.
- 想 不 想 去 做 个 按摩 ，放松 一下 。Would you like to go get a massage and unwind?
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 3 (pp. 139) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 53) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 2 (pp. 189-90) →buy
- Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (pp. 32-6) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 50) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 4 (新实用汉语课本4) (pp. 103-4) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (pp. 271-2) →buy