1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Chinese
  4. >
  5. "That teacher is not fat."

"That teacher is not fat."


January 3, 2018



不可以用 “位”?


You can, but I think you won't care about using a honorific word while gossiping somebody's weight.


那位老师不胖 should be okay right ?


Can somebody explain why "那个老师不很胖" is wrong?


Sure 很 can be neutral for the most part, but not when being paired with a negative (不). In that case, it always has its meaning.


That would be "That teacher is not very fat". It implies that the teacher may be a bit fat, just not very fat.


But "hen" is often used as a neutral grammatical particle, even is this course, without meaning "very"... 他很好 doesn't have "very" here :-\


IMHO it n e v e r e v e r is neutral.


Every Chinese grammar I have had in my hands says it's grammaticalized. Notice how the Chinese always use the structure "very [adjective]" as a calque from their language. Some courses even consistently use 非常 as translation of "very".


I think I don't have more advice for you here. Anyway you can perhaps feel already such theory could not explain why you were wrong. So if you are already intermediate or advanced level and want to have an in-depth understanding it is advisable to look a bit outside of the box.
Today I think of an example. In English we say someone is healthy if he is not ill, but we can also say "Oh don't worry he is very healthy." Can someone be logically healthier than a healthy person? He has a negative number of illness? LOL. It is certainly reasonable to understand another language based on the reasoning of one's mother tongue, but we need to be aware that there is always limitation in doing so.


The following is a direct quote from the module Greeting 2:

"In English, we say I am good or She is happy, but in Chinese you don’t use words like am or is before adjectives. Instead, adjectives are usually preceded by 很 (hěn). Sometimes 很 means very, but it’s more often just a way to connect a noun and an adjective."

Applying this principle to the translation of the sentence, "That teacher is not fat", I put "那个老师不很胖" and was marked wrong.

Am I incorrect or did Duolingo goof? If the former, why?


As I understand, 很 is used as you've said in an affirmative sentence. Here 不 serves the purpose of connecting the subject and predicate; 那个老师不很胖 would imply 'that teacher is not very fat' (i.e. the teacher is a bit chunky.)

Learn Chinese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.