Question regarding the use of hen3 with hao3

January 09, 2012, 02:47 AM posted in Grammar Questions

I don't understand why you have to use with 好. Such as when saying I am good ( 好)If I understand correctly you are literally saying I am very good.  I have been unable to find something that can explain to me why you can't just say 好. It might seem like a strange question at first but I am asking it as a newbie. I was hoping that maybe others of you have had this as a question in your Mandarin journeys and could perhaps share some insights as to what made it clear for you. I also wondered if you are already saying I am very good for "I am good" then how would someone in fact say that they are VERY good? A grammar note I came across said that the hen3 would have extra stress, does that mean it would be pronounced with a fuller third tone or it would be emphasized similar to when something would be in capital letters in English , for example ,"I am real good" said in somewhat of a monotone as opposed to "I am REAL good"  making the word "real" the strongest emphasized word in the sentence?

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January 09, 2012, 08:09 AM

Well, languages sometimes just express things some way.  Looking too deeply, sometimes just makes you confused.  Anyway, I think there is a preference for two sylable words in Chinese; 很好 just flows a little better than a solitary 好。I have also been told that 很 plays the role of a verb in this context; "I am fine" versus "I fine".

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January 10, 2012, 07:39 AM

I'm not sure you're ever going to get a satisfactory explanation as to why the grammar works exactly the way it does, but you definitely have to learn the Chinese grammar pattern for adjectives:

[Subject] + 很 + [Adjective]

The "reason" you need the 很 is that without it, there is an implied comparison. For example, if one asks, "谁好?" (shéi hǎo?), literally, "who good?" what the question actually means is "who is better?"  The answer "我好" actually means "I am better."  ("我很好," meanwhile, continues to mean "I am good" or "I'm fine.")

As for whether the 很 actually means "very" or whether it's just an empty word in a grammar pattern, you really have to look at the specific context, and tone of voice plays a part as well.

My advice to you is to learn the pattern and use it, and over time, things will start to fall into place.

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January 19, 2012, 11:03 AM

Thanks for your replies, Mark and John. Unfortunately, this one is still beyond me. I guess because I am looking at it from the outside. For now, I will just make sure to use it and hopefully like you two have said the understanding will come with time and exposure.