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About “子” in Chinese

Chinese characters, learning Chinese

As we all know, suffix "er" (儿) is very common in Beijing dialect, or more precisely, there are many words with "儿" as a diminutive suffix in Beijing dialect. However, as a matter of fact, there are as many words suffixed with "子" both in Beijing dialect and Mandarin Chinese. There are more than 500 words suffixed with "子" in Chinese. Besides, a large number of such words are often heard in spoken Chinese.

大家都知道,北京话里"儿化"多,具体说就是由后缀"儿"构成的词多。其实北京话以至普通话里,由"子"作后缀构成的词也很多,而且不亚于"儿"。汉语中,由"子"构成的词不下500个,再加上口语中的,这类词就更多了。

 

All the words, when suffixed with "子", become nouns. The character "子" can be placed immediately after many nouns, verbs, adjectives and quantifiers to form new nouns.

与"子"搭配的任何词都变成了名词。"子"可以跟大量的名词搭配构成名词,也跟动词、形容词、量词等构成新名词。

 

noun+子

 

Examples:

 

Utensils:

勺子 (sháo zi )- spoon

刀子 (dāo zi)- knife

杯子 (bēi  zi)- cup

筷子 (kuài zi )- chopsticks

桌子 (zhuō zi)- desk/table

镜子 (jìng zi)- mirror…

 

Organs

鼻子 (bí zi)- nose

嗓子 (sǎng zi)- throat

肘子 (zhǒu zi)- elbow

膀子 (bǎng zi)- arm

肚子 (dù zi)- stomach

脖子 (bó zi)- neck…

 

Kinship

儿子 (ér zi)- son

孙子 (sūn zi)- grandson

妻子 (qī zi)- wife

孩子 (hái zi)- child 

侄子 (zhí zi)- nephew

叔子 (shū zi)- husband's younger brother

 

Animals

猴子(hóu zi)- monkey  

兔子 (tù zi)- rabbit 

狮子(shī zi )- lion 

虫子 (chóng zi)- worm/bug

鸭子(yā zi)- duck  

鸽子 (gē zi)- pigeon/dove

 

Places

房子 (fáng zi)- house

屋子 ( wū zi)- room/house

厂子 (chǎng zi)- factory

村子 (cūn zi)- village

镇子 (zhèn zi)- town 

 

Furthermore, in spoken Chinese, you can call the younger people by adding "子" to their last names. For example:

此外,口语中由人的姓加"子"常构成对年青人的称谓:


赵子 (zhào zi)

余子 (yú zi)

张子 (zhāng zi)…

 

But this applies only to some single last names. Remember that some Chinese last names cannot be suffixed in this way, for it may cause misunderstandings.

这种用法仅限于单姓。同时必须注意,有些单姓不宜加"子":孙、侯、施、文、罗、麻、龙等,否则会造成误解。

 

For example:


孙子 (sūn zi)- a polysemy, it also has the meaning of grandson

侯子 (hóu zi)- a homophone of  "猴子 (monkey)"

施子 (shī zi)- a homophone of  "狮子 (lion)"

文子 (wén zi)- a homophone of  "蚊子 (mosquito)"

罗子 (luó zi)- a homophone of  "骡子 (mule)"

麻子 (má zi)- a polysemy, it also refers to a pockmark or a person with pockmarks

龙子 (lóng zi)- a homophone of "聋子 (a deaf person)"

 

Verb+子

 

刷子 (shuā zi)- brush

拍子 (pāi zi)- racket

梳子 (shū zi)- comb

骗子 (piàn zi)- cheater/swindler

扣子 (kòu zi)- button

夹子 (jiá zi)- clip

卷子 (juàn zi)- examination paper

 

The nouns made up of a noun and "子" often refer to tools, people and objects. The verbs in this structure indicates the action implemented on the objects.

动词加"子"构成的名词也多为用具,还包括人、物等。这种名词中的动词,常表示制作或使用该物体的动作。

 

Adjective+子 

 

呆子 (dāi zi)- dork

傻子 (shǎ zi)- idiot, simpleton

胖子 (pàng zi )- fatty

瘦子 (shòu zi)- skinny people 

疯子 (fēng zi)- lunatic

瘸子 (qué zi)- crippler

 

Interestingly, the most Chinese nouns in the structure of "adjective+子" are often used to address a certain group of people with disrespect.

很有意思的是,形容词加"子"构成的名词,除个别外,多用来表示人,而且多含不尊重义。

 

Quantifier+子


个子 (gè zi)- stature

尺子 (chǐ zi)- ruler

句子 (jù zi)- sentence

样子 (yàng zi)- appearance

册子 (cè zi)- brochure

口子 (kǒu zi)- opening   

本子 (běn zi)- notebook 

 

As quantifiers are often used to modify nouns and many function as nouns themselves, it is easy to understand that they can be transformed into nouns after being suffixed with "子".

由于量词多用来修饰名词,而且不少量词本身就含有名词的性质,所以加"子"后构成名词就不难理解了。

 

In addition, some words that indicate directions and shapes can be suffixed with "子" to form nouns. For example:

此外,某些表示方位和形状的词均可与"子"构成名词。如:

 

面子 (miàn zi)- face 

头子 (tóu zi)- chief

方子 (fāng zi)- prescription 

珠子 (zhū zi)- bead 

粒子 (lì zi)- particle 

轮子 (lún zi)- wheel

 

Note that not every noun can be suffixed with "子" to form a new noun. For example, some words for organs, such as 肺 (fèi, lung), 肝 (gān, liver), 心 (xīn, heart), 胃 (wèi, stomach) and words for animals, like 虎 (hǔ, tiger), 熊 (xióng, bear), 牛 (niú, bull) and 马 (mǎ, horse), can not be suffixed in this way. It's the same case with most verbs and adjectives.

应该特别注意的是,并不是任意一个名词都能与"子"构成新词,如表示器官的"肺、肝、心、胃"等,表示动物的"虎、熊、牛、马"等。而多数动词、形容词就更是如此了。


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2016-06-21

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