[quote=“mod lang”]Different words that have the same literal meaning but different shades of nuanced meaning. What are the nuances between:
Difang / Butong (different)
Yiyang / Shangtongde (same)
Keyi / Wei (can)
Meilide / Piaoliang (beautiful)
There are more but that’s all I can think of right now.[/quote]
Without tones, it’s difficult for me to know “Difang” and “Wei”. Could you type Chinese or give me the tones? By the way, I really want to help because I love to analyze words, but to explain these differences by my keyboard is too exhausting.
Di Fang doesn’t show up in any dictionary, but it is a word I hear often used to mean “different”. Perhaps it is a Taiwanese word (all that code-switching)? I’ve heard this word used very often, more often than “butong” in fact.
Sorry, I messed up my pinyin - “wei” is “hui” as in “Wo bu hui!”
there are a lot of words that simply mean ‘can’: hui4, ke3yi3, neng2,cai2, to name the ones that i know, there will probably be more…each have their own nuances and remember that hui4 can aslo mean ‘will’.
neng2 indicates that it is possible to do something
cai2 can be used like ‘only now’ or ‘only after’…i can blah blah
ke3yi3 suggests permission to do something
Doesn’t the dictionary give any help with this?
The only one I can help you with straight away are the hui/keyi/neng distinctions.
Hui is to have a skill - ‘Wo hui shuo fawen.’ (I can speak French.)
Keyi often means to be permitted to - ‘Ni keyi ting che zai zheibian.’ (You can park your car here/It’s permitted to park here.) We often hear it in the negative, particularly directed to children - ‘Bukeyi zuo zheiyangzi.’ (Don’t behave like that/it’s not permitted to behave like that.)
Neng often means to be physically able to - ‘Wo buneng pa hen gaode shan.’ (I can’t climb very high mountains.) It also seems to refer to being bound by a commitment or rule; Muslims might say ‘Wo buneng chi zhurou.’ (I can’t eat pork.)
[Edit: posted this at the exact same time as Southpaw’s helpful post]
The former is more colloquial. I think I hear the latter more in China?
Meilide / Piaoliang (beautiful)
Only the former is a synonym for beautiful, and hints of elegance or delicateness. The latter means something more like “fetching” or “splendid.” For example, use the former to describe a painting, a daydream or days of youth, but the latter to describe a new suit or a home run.
Dear Mod lang,
Pls. add tones like this: di4fang1 / bu4tong2
Answers: I couldn’t find anything for difang. The best book for looking up things by sound, even when you don’t know the tones is the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, DeFrancis (ed.), 2003. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-2766-x. You can order direct from UHP or Amazon (amazon.com/exec/obidos/searc … 88-6058223). It lists nothing resembling bu4tong2 under difang.
As for the subtleties of mei3li4 vs piao4liang4, the earlier reply was good; note that which you use will depend on the situation. I hear mei3 more for scenery, or for mature beauty in women (Gong Li, for example), versus piao4liang4 which is often closer to “pretty” (Nicole Kidman, for example). Li3 Xin1jie2 ( ) and Meg Ryan would be ke3ai4, “cute”. But each time I’ve told a young lady she’s ke3ai4, she seemed disappointed that I didn’t say “mei3”. It seems Hello Kitty is “cute”, to which they don’t aspire. And although one can sometimes use beautiful or pretty for children in the west, my impression is that mei3 and piao4liang4 are not so common for kids here, although occasionally heard for girls, especially when dolled up. Ke3ai4 is most common. Also, although one can describe a boy or teen lad as “pretty” sometimes in the west, that doesn’t seem to work in Chinese; shuai4 appears to be the only choice for males.
There are also some books on discriminated synonyms; I’ll search my collection and see if I can dig up more answers later.
I agree, although piao4liang4 can also refer to delicate prettiness. Mei3 and mei3li4 are used for things of great beauty with a connotation of elegance or excellence and for those things of such beauty which inspire; they can be used for abstract ideas as well, and is the only suitable choice for women of mature or deep beauty and objects of lasting or classic beauty. But not everything which is “beautiful” is “mei”, e.g., personality. Piao4liang4 refers to a fine exterior, or smartly dressed, or for speaking well (of language ability – e.g. Ta1 Fa4yu3 shuo1de piao4liang4 ji2le)), although piao4liang4hua4 might be high-sounding words (perhaps lacking in substance). It can also refer to brilliant actions, as the above-mentioned home run, but is not used for abstract aesthetics. Again, don’t just learn word-for-word correspondences (of mei3=beautiful; piao4liang4=pretty), because they don’t always hold. For example, the “pretty boys” (pouty-lipped young male models and boy band stars, or Japanese types with the lipstick on) are mei3shao4nian2, I’m told.
Check out 常用漢語同義詞–漢英雙解手冊 Handbook of Chinese Synonyms – with bilingual explanations. It had meili/piaoliang but not the others. China Today Press, ISBN 7-5072-0068-x, $14.95 US. Limited content, snall ppbk, thin cover, simplified chars.
See also A Guide to Proper Usage of Spoken Chinese 2nd Ed., Tian Shou-he, SMC Publ., Taipei (南天 - in alley behind (west) and 50 yds north of Taida Chengpin Bookstore), ISBN 957638-347-1, $250NT. It has a page on neng2/hui4/ke3yi3, a good one on jia1 vs. fang2zi, bang1 vs. bang1mang2, bie2de vs. ling4wai4, bu4xiang3 vs. bu4jue2de, etc. It has both grammar and discriminated synonyms, with examples - nicely done, trad. char.