In English, nouns can be "linked" to adjectives and other nouns with the verb "to be." In Chinese, nouns are linked to other nouns in one way, but linked to adjectives in a completely different way. Nouns are linked to other nouns with 是 (shì). Nouns are linked to adjectives with 很 (hěn).
Noun + 很 + Adj.
The noun in this structure is the subject of the sentence. Sometimes the 很 (hěn) in this structure is translated as "very," but often it is just a way to link a noun to an adjective.
In the following examples, 很 (hěn) is just a link (you could think of it as a substitute for the verb "to be"), and the sentences could be translated as "(Noun) is (adjective)."
- 我 很 好。Wǒ hěn hǎo.I'm good.
- 你 很 漂亮。Nǐ hěn piàoliang.You are pretty.
- 他 很 高兴。Tā hěn gāoxìng.He is happy.
- 中文 很 难。Zhōngwén hěn nán.Chinese is difficult.
- 老板 很 生气。Lǎobǎn hěn shēngqì.The boss is angry.
- 我们 很 累。Wǒmen hěn lèi.We're tired.
- 我 哥哥 也 很 高。Wǒ gēge yě hěn gāo.My older brother is also tall.
- 你 家 也 很 远 吗？Nǐ jiā yě hěn yuǎn ma?Is your house also far away?
- 爸爸 很 忙，妈妈 也 很 忙。Bàba hěn máng, māma yě hěn máng.Dad is busy, and mom is also busy.
- 他 和 他 弟弟 都 很 帅。Tā hé tā dìdi dōu hěn shuài.He and his younger brother are both handsome.
Remember that 是 (shì) is not used to link adjectives to nouns. This is a classic mistake that almost everyone makes when learning Chinese. Make sure you use 很 (hěn) and not 是 (shì) to link adjectives to nouns, as shown below:
- 他 是 高。Tā shì gāo.
- 他 很 高。Tā hěn gāo.He is tall.
What 很 (hěn) Really Means
If you're like most learners, when you first learn this pattern, you're thinking, "How can 很 (hěn) mean "very" one minute, but then nothing but a "link" the next? How do I know if anything means anything in this language?" That's a reasonable response. But in the case of these "Noun + Adj." sentences, you just have to think of this usage of 很 (hěn) as an exception. It's just part of the structure.
If you actually want to add the meaning of "very" into the sentence, you could use another adverb instead of 很 (hěn). One good choice is 非常 (fēicháng).
- 他 非常 高 。Tā fēicháng gāo.He is very tall.