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2.4: Simple "noun + adjective" sentences

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  • 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)."

    • 好。Wǒ hěn hǎo.I'm good.
    • 漂亮。Nǐ hěn piàoliang.You are pretty.
    • 高兴。Tā hěn gāoxìng.He is happy.
    • 中文 难。Zhōngwén hěn nán.Chinese is difficult.
    • 老板 生气。Lǎobǎn hěn shēngqì.The boss is angry.
    • 我们 累。Wǒmen hěn lèi.We're tired.
    • 我 哥哥 也 高。Wǒ gēge yě hěn gāo.My older brother is also tall.
    • 你 家 也 远 吗?Nǐ jiā yě hěn yuǎn ma?Is your house also far away?
    • 爸爸 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 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:

    • 高。Tā shì gāo.
    • 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).

    • 非常 高 。Tā fēicháng gāo.He is very tall.
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