Translation:Is your husband American?
In modern idiomatic English this question containing "isn't" means something like "To my knowledge your husband is American; now please confirm that that is true, if it is true, because I am not completely sure." So it does not literally mean: "Please confirm or deny the statement that your husband is not American." For didactic purposes, however, you may assume that the intended meaning of the Chinese question to be learnt is nonetheless: "Please confirm or reject the statement that your husband is not American."
This is considered right if 個／个 is included. Translating your sentence, we have the following possibilities:
- 你的丈夫是個美國人嗎？(Since the subject is singular, including only 個 includes "an")
- 你的丈夫是一個美國人嗎？(Acceptable if you extend the sentence longer)
- 你的丈夫是不是一個美國人？(Likewise, this is also acceptable with 一個)
Thanks to your explanation, I've also found out that 個 gè is the traditional form of counting word 个 gè, so that 個 is used mainly in Taiwan and Hong Kong, whereas 个 is used throughout the Mainland and all other Chinese-speaking regions.
It's also interesting that simplified 国 guó (country) has 玉 yù (jade) enclosed, whereas the traditional one, 國, has 或 huò (or) enclosed. I understand 或 is used as a phonetic component, whereas 玉 is used as a semantic component. I just can't figure how one evolved into the other. I'd like you to expand on this a bit. 谢谢
I'm very interested in hearing the answer to this, too. I can tell you that in Japanese, 王 means "king." He has a jewel, that's the part that makes it into 玉. (This part actually means "jewel" in Japanese, because it referred to what the king was holding. I can easily see how "jade" became a generic "jewel" when the character came to Japan.) Now, the king and his jewel live where? In a country or a kingdom. That's the 口 that surrounds the king and his jewel.
This is the story of the evolution of that character that I learned in school in Japan. So I am very curious to know when and how it evolved into the Japanese form. Did it evolve in China first and then go to Japan? I tend to think that this is not likely, since when were the simplified Chinese forms established? Is this one of those cases (like 電話）where the Japanese usage bounced back to China?
I really geek out about this sort of stuff so I am looking forward to hearing people's insight. 谢谢 !
Check the notes for this lesson https://www.duolingo.com/skill/zs/Family-2/tips
It is a very common pattern to ask a quesion by using the verb-not-verb structure: eg ...是不是... which literally means "are or are not". Another example would be 「你去不去？」 = "Are you going or not?"
It can certainly get more complicated than that, but important to learn this pattern.
Regarding your first question: why does the sentence use the VERB 不 VERB form to make a question instead of adding 嗎? You should check the lesson notes and the other comments in this thread. It is an important structure to learn.
And your second question about ways to say “husband”: there are many ways including 丈夫、先生、老公 which are the most common. Which you choose depends on where you live and the formality of the situation. 丈夫 is probably the most generally applicable until you learn through experience the subtle differences.
The difference between being american and being an american:
An american is an entity that is american, it is singular at it is definite yet not specific.
Being american can be both singular and plural, it is not definite and can just as well mean your husband has american traits as in him being "american'y" if you will.
There is a grammatical difference even though may not make a big difference. Orders and counts have greater significance in many other languages, as does it in english.