寧可 vs. 寧願
I'm curious if anyone (especially native speakers and foreigners living in China/Taiwan) has any insights into 寧可 níngkě and 寧願 níngyuàn.
I know they pretty much mean the same thing, "would rather / had better / would sooner", but I'm curious to know which one might be used more often.
A Taiwanese friend said that you could use them interchangeably, but that in certain rare situations it may be better to use one over the other. She couldn't elaborate! She also said that she's more likely to use 寧願 because it's a bit easier to say and a bit more pleasant to the ears.
Any additional insight would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
Oh, and here's an example sentence:
I would rather die than eat my brother's cooking, tastes too bad.
tingyunJanuary 20, 2011, 05:32 PM
I think when approaching differences this subtle, pretty much the only option is to rely on the component charecters, or conciously abandon the issue and just let yourself experience 潜移默化 (subtle influence process). Dictionaries will generally define the words in terms of each other, and native speakers will have differing intuitions of use (probably match native English speakers' intuitions regarding differentiation of close synonyms - ie subjective and inconsistent. Further, asking someone to expressly articulate such a difference has very limitied reliability in actually reflecting what difference they observe in use, if any).
From the charecters, 宁愿 is going to indicate a more subjective, stronger resolve/willingness to accept than 宁可 - but since both are used for bad circumstances, this distinction is likely very small in influence. 潜移默化 is probably the right choice, backed up by the realization that they are basically interchangable anyway.
Two side notes - first, at least in the mainland standard (not sure about Taiwan), in these words 宁 should be pronounced 4th tone - the 2nd tone proncounciation you list is for expressing 'peaceful' and certain names (as well as participating in death rites for parents or married females going to visit their parents).
Second, technically 宁可 has an additional meaning that 宁愿 lacks - 宁 4th tone can also mean 岂qi3, or 难道nan2dao4, so 宁可 can be a rhetorical question for saying 'how could it be that way'? But this is an old use, only really relevant for reading old texts.
calkinsJanuary 21, 2011, 01:11 PM
Thanks tingyun for the detailed explanation.
I agree about learning some Chinese only through the influence process. I just don't hear this used often and thought someone might be able to speed my learning a bit :) I guess some Chinese is going to take a good 20 years to learn properly!
寧 is one of those words pronounced differently in Taiwan, 2nd tone instead of the mainland 4th tone.
Thanks again, and if anyone else has more insights, please share.