"Excuse me, what does this mean?"


April 21, 2018

This discussion is locked.


Why couldn't "请问,这是意思什么" also be correct?


I want to know this too. The sentence structure seems to change from exercise to exercise without any explanation. It's really frustrating.


意思 is not a verb "to mean" but a noun "meaning". So you basically ask "what kind of meaning is this" (and yes, in Chinese you say something 是 "is" some kind of 意思, not 有 "has". Although the question "what does X mean" is such a fixed expression that 是 is often omitted, so you get: X什么意思?)


Thank you. I wish Duolingo made it clear when a word is a verb and when a noun.


I believe the 有 structure is valid. "X有什么意思?" is how I want taught to ask "What does X mean?" by my Chinese professors and textbooks in college. I never encountered "X是什么意思?" until I started practicing on Duolingo.


You’re right, I spoke a little prematurely. You can say X有Y的意思. However I feel it has somewhat different implications which rule it out in this particular instance. When I hear X有Y的意思, the implication is always “X has the meaning Y among others”. I usually hear it when talking about the definitions of words or fixed phrases and you want to express that there is this meaning but at least not rule out the possibility that there are others. As a result, I quite often hear it used when talking about meanings which are not the core one but more marginal or figurative ones. For example: 「轮廓」这个词原本的意思是contour,但是也有rough idea的意思。 “The original meaning of the word lúnkuò 轮廓 is ‘contour’, but it also has the meaning ‘rough idea’.” You could also ask: 这有什么別的意思吗? “Does this have any other meanings?” I wouldn’t use this formula to ask about the meaning of some concrete sentence/a concrete instance where the word is used though, because then I’m not interested in some possible definitions of the word but the concrete meaning that applies in this instance. Here I would use 这什么意思, not 有. Does your textbook use it that way? In that case I would be interested which textbook that is and where it was written because it could be indicating that the implications I feel are not universal to every region of the Chinese-speaking world.


I think it might be correct to say 请问,这意思是什么?


What are the rules for 什么?can't it be either before or after the object?


Always before, 什么意思 literally means "which meaning" so it's functioning like an adjective here


When do you have to use 个 and when do you have to leave it out?


When with a noun, you always use 个 (or another measure word). Here, there's no noun so you omit the 个


You can use it if you want though, especially with 个. Other measure words can also be used without the noun, but then it’s interpreted as “this one”, with the noun implied: 这条[裤子]很好看!


There are some instances where it is allowed to omit the measure word, usually for something very close to you, like your family.


The use of measure words has nothing to do with being close or not. Maybe you’re confusing measure words with the attribute particle 的?


意思 is a noun and means "meaning"
I think:
"What is the meaning of this?"
would be a much better translation.
That might explain the 是 in the sentence.


As native speaker of Spanish, I compare this to "How old are you?" in English vs. "¿Cuántos años tienes?" (lit: "How many years do you have?"), in Spanish, the age is a concept you "have/gain"; so, for Chinese, instead of saying "the word MEANS", you say "the word IS (such/the) meaning".


意 (yì) = idea/meaning/thought/to think
思 (sī) = to think/to consider
意思 (yìsi) = idea/opinion/meaning


How do I know when to use 这个 and when to use 这?


Why not “请问,这有什么意思?”


Because in Chinese, meaning is something which a thing “is”, not “has”.

有意思 also exists, but it has a different connotation. It can mean “significant, meaningful” or “interesting, enjoyable”. You can also 对一个人有意思 (literally “have a meaning/intention towards somebody”), which is a slightly indirect way of saying “to be interested in/attracted to somebody”.


That is exactly how I was taught to ask this question in college.


In my chinese classes, if I ask for a character's meaning, they would teach me to say 这字有什么意思?When is 有 used, and when is 是 used in this kind of context?


First: 这字 ;)

If you’re asking what something means, both 有 and 是 are okay but 是 feels much more natural to me (could be there are regional differences though). In fact colloquially you also frequently hear it without any overt verb as 这个字什么意思, which I would definitely interpret as 是 being omitted rather than 有 because there are other formulas where you can omit 是 (e.g. when giving a date or time: 今天(是)几月几号 “what day is today“).


The question was in English but no characters to choose from for translation. It has happened at least twice and my pingying typed answer was marked incorrect


Problem keeps occurring. I cant type characters so need choice to formulate translation into chinese characters!!


If you have added hanzis to your keyboard and you can use them properly elsewhere except in Duolingo then I think you should either re-install Duolingo or contact their support.


Can I say 这个的意思是什么?


No, There is no 的 after the measure word. You can add 的 if you want to add more information, for example: 这个 聪明的 学生 ("this smart student"), but otherwise, just 这个的 is wrong.


could 请问,这有什么意思 also be correct?


Probably, although it’s much more natural with 是. This is probably also due to the fact that 有意思 generally means “to be interesting,” so 这有什么意思 could – given the right context and intonation – also be meant as a rhetorical question: “How is this interesting? [It seems rather boring to me.]”


Excuse me doesn't mean 請問!More appropriate translate to 对不起。For example if you would like someone to make way for you, you say "Excuse me ", you are not asking a question.


True, but you would say 請問[请问] when initiating conversation with somebody to ask a question, and English does use “excuse me” in such a situation:

  • 請問,洗手間在哪裡? “Excuse me, where is the bathroom?”
  • 請問,這個多少錢? “Excuse me, how much is this?”
  • 請問,可以幫我們拍個照嗎? “Excuse me, could you take a picture of us?”

對不起[对不起] indicates an apology for some offense. That does make it the appropriate thing to say when pushing past somebody, that’s true. But in my experience it’s more commonly used after the offense has already happened, in which case I would not use “excuse me” in English but “(I’m) sorry”. For example if I go to a stand to order and somebody complains I cut in line, I might say: 啊,對不起,我沒有看到你! “Ah sorry, I didn’t see you!”


Same question...


why it doesn't accept the answer just because i didn't put a question marker on the end? i never do this and it works, why are some excercises, where it isn't?


I am pretty suck of you not accepting 繁体字!


I understand your annoyance but it may just be a technical hiccup. The course started out as Simplified only, probably simply due to a combination of both larger supply and larger demand than for Traditional. After some time, Traditional suddenly started getting accepted, which indicates that they might have used some software to convert the Traditional answers to Simplified before checking them against the database. But then that stopped again. I was just as disappointed as you are since I’m much more comfortable writing Traditional as well, so I started reporting every sentence which I got rejected solely because I used Traditional characters. And recently I have started to get messages that those reports were added to the database. That indicates to me that my initial suspicion of political reasons may well have been unjustified and it was simply that the transformation software produced unsatisfactory results. Maybe it accepted too many incorrect answers along the lines 見麵 for “to meet” because it blindly transformed 麵 into 面 even though in this case the Traditional should have been 面 as well? Just a guess though. In any case, they appear to have ditched the software approach and now have to add every sentence manually – which of course takes time and of course makes it easy for some to be missed. So I would advise to report the missing Traditional answer using the flag button and I’m sure it’ll get added back in eventually (though it may take some time since I’m sure there’s quite some backlog) :)

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