Comparing "turan" and "huran"
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.
- 1 Both 突然 and 忽然 can be used as Adverbs
- 2 突然 can be used as an Adjective
- 3 突然 can be used as a complement
- 4 突然 can be used as the predicate
- 5 Example of right and wrong sentences
- 6 Example Dialog
- 7 Sources and further reading
Both 突然 and 忽然 can be used as Adverbs
Before a Verb
突然／忽然 + Verb
- 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.
- 天 突然 暗 了。
- 天 忽然 暗 了。The sky suddenly got dark.
- 灯 突然 不 亮 了。
- 灯 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!
- 突然，他 进来 了。
- 忽然，他 进来 了。Suddenly, he entered.
突然 can be used as an Adjective
Structure as an Adjective
突然 + (的) + Noun
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 现代汉语八百词（增订本） (pp. 540) [ →buy]
- Chinese Grammar - Broken down into 100 items - Basic and Intermediate Levels (汉语语法百项讲练 - 初中级) (pp. 113) [ →buy]