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Mandarin Adjectives

By September 22, 2010

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Mandarin nouns can be modified with stative verbs - words that describe a relatively unchanging state. Examples of stative verbs include:

  • 高 (gāo) tall
  • 矮 (ǎi) short
  • 大 (d) big
  • 小 (xiǎo) small
  • 便宜 (piny) cheap
  • 貴 / 贵 (gu) expensive

Stative verbs are similar to English adjectives, except that stative verbs implicitly include the equative verb sh (是).

So the sentence:

他很高。 Tā hěn gāo.

translates as "he is tall" even though the literal translation is "he very tall."

A noun modified by a stative verb can be at the end of the sentence:

他很高的男孩。
Tā hěn gāo de nnhi.
He is a tall boy.

The possessive 的 (de) is usually used between the stative verb and the modified noun with this exception: If the stative verb is a single syllable and is unmodified, it does not take 的 (de), unless it is for emphasis.

So in our example sentence, 高 (gāo) is modified with 很 (hěn), so 的 (de) is required. An example of an unmodified stative verb is seen in this sentence:

我喜歡買舊書。
我喜欢买旧书。
Wǒ xǐhuān mǎi ji shū.
I like to buy old books.

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