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Selective complex sentences in Chinese

选择复句.png


According to the Modern Chinese by Huang Borong and Liao Xudong, there are four types of selective complex sentences:

根据黄伯荣、廖序东两位先生主编的《现代汉语》,选择关系复句包括以下四种类型:


1. 或者 (huò zhě)…或者…(…or…)

huò zhě nǐ qù, huò zhě zán liǎng yī qǐ qù.

或者你去,或者咱俩一起去。

You go, or we go together.

2. 不是 (bú shì)…就是 (jiù shì)…/要么 (yào me)…要么… (either… or)

bú shì bǎ lǎo hǔ dǎ sǐ, jiù shì bèi lǎo hǔ chī diào.

不是把老虎打死,就是被老虎吃掉。

You either kill the tiger or be eaten by it.

yào me shě qì yú ér chī xióng zhǎng, yào me shě qì xióng zhǎng ér chī yú

要么舍弃鱼而吃熊掌,要么舍弃熊掌而吃鱼。

You either abandon the fish and have the bear paw or do the reverse.

3. 与其 (yǔ qí)…不如 (bú rú)…(would rather…than)

yǔ qí zuò ér dài bì, bú rú fèn qǐ fǎn kàng

与其坐而待毙,不如奋起反抗。

I would rather rise and resist than sit still waiting for death.

4. 宁可 (nìng kě)…决不 (jué bù)  (would rather…than)

nìng kě zhàn zhe sǐ, jué bú guì zhe huó !

宁可站着死,决不跪着活!

I'd rather die standing than live on my knees!

The four types of selective complex sentences can be subdivided into two categories. The first two types mentioned above belong to the same class, for they only describe the options objectively but no choice has been made. The third and the fourth type belong to another category, because they indicate that a specific choice has been made. The content after "不如"  in the third type and "宁可" in the fourth type is the choice.

这四种选择关系复句,可以再分为两类:1、2两种是一类,它们表示的是没有确定的选择,即只提出选择项,并未确定选择何项。这是纯然意义上的选择关系。3、4两种是另一类,它们表示的是确定的选择,即 3 表示选择“不如……”这一项,4表示选择“宁可……”这一项。

Although both the first two types share the common feature, they are used in different situations: in the first type, there are several options listed for you to choose, and the number of options is unlimited. For example, the sentence in the first example above can be changed into: 

前一类虽然都表示纯粹意义上的选择关系,但运用的场合仍有区别:第1种选择关系只是列出几种可供选择的情况,让人从中选取的是一种。它的特点是可供选择的情况数量不受限制。如例句①可以改造为:

huò zhě nǐ qù, huò zhě wǒ qù, huò zhě tā qù, huò zhě zán liǎng yī qǐ qù, huò zhě zán sā yī qǐ qù…

或者你去,或者我去,或者他去,或者咱俩一起去,或者咱仨一起去……

You go, or I go, or he goes, or you and I go together, or we three go together.

By contrast,  the second type conveys no such possibility and means that a decision must be made between the two incompatible options. For example:

与这种情况相反,第2种选择关系就没有这种可能性,它只表示从两种对立的情况中选择一种。因此它表示的是一种“势不两立”的关系。比如:

bú shì dōng fēng yā dǎo xī fēng, jiù shì xī fēng yā dǎo dōng fēng.

不是东风压倒西风,就是西风压倒东风。

Either the east wind prevails over the west wind or the reverse.

bú shì yú sǐ, jiù shì wǎng pò.

不是鱼死,就是网破。

Either the fish dies or the net gets broken.

Similarly, although the third and fourth types of selective sentences are somewhat similar, they are used differently. The third type is used after you have weighed the pros and cons and decided to choose the latter situation. The two options in the sentences don't stand in sharp opposition. For example, 

后一类都表示有取有舍上,但使用情况也有所区别。第3种选择关系表示经过权衡利弊、优劣,决定选择后一项舍弃前一项。两项之间没有尖锐的对立。比如:

yǔ qí qù qiú rén, bú rú zì jǐ dòng shǒu lái dé kuài.

与其去求人,不如自己动手来得快。

I would rather do it myself than ask for help.

yǔ qí dú zhè zhǒng bié jiǎo de yì běn, bú rú gàn cuì dú yuán zhù.

与其读这种蹩脚的译本,不如干脆读原著。

I would rather read the original version than the crappy translated version.

However, the two options in the fourth type are the two extremes of a polar. The first part of the sentence is the decision. For example:

第4种选择关系与此不同,它表示两个分句间有尖锐的对立,从而选择前者舍弃后者。比如:

nìng kě è sǐ, yě bú chī jiē lái zhī shí.

宁可饿死,也不吃嗟来之食。

I would rather die than eat the food handed out in contempt.

nìng kě xī shēng shēng mìng, jué bú tóu jiàng dí rén.

宁可牺牲生命,决不投降敌人。

I would rather die than surrender to the enemy.

From the analysis above, it is known that all the four types of selective complex sentences are used under their specific conditions. 

由上面的分析可以看出,这四种选择关系的复句,各有各的运用条件。

2016-06-21

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