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Chinese Grammar: The different uses of 可

If one day you guys go to Northern China, you may often hear people talking use this word: . Don’t look down upon this tiny word, it is used quite often and can make your speech quite lively! Let’s take a look at what it means.

- an adverb that likes to put the spotlight on things

is an emphatic adverb, that is used as a modifier. In most situations, you'll find used as a transitional word or a particle use to put emphasis on a situation or to stress a statement. You’ll also run into it in sentence patterns. Mostly used informally and in spoken speech, it's a word you'll want to use when the reality differs from what you expected, and you want to underline that. As it means different things with different words, let's see how behaves with each type of word.

Using with an adjective

When used with an adjective, can intensify the adjective, to stress the tone of the speaker and to express the degree of something. In this situation, it’s similar in meaning to / 非常 very or really.


+ adjective


这个 姑娘漂亮
This girl is very pretty! (the speaker didn't quite expect her to be that pretty)

Tomato scrambled eggs are very tasty! (tastier than one had expected)

This is really complicated!

Using with a verb

When used with verbs, it can emphasize them, also like, really or act like a “but”, like does to turn something into another situation. It can also be used in questions.


+ Verb


You finally came back!

You go, but I really won't go to school.

This is certainly not my book.

Do you know whether he’ll come or not?

Sentence structures with

can also be used in the pattern “ ... ” to show that something is worth doing. You can also translate it in “...can/could (be)...". Let’s look at some examples so as to give you a better idea of how this pattern works.


+ Verb +


He is worth relying on.

还有 什么挑剔
Is there anything that could be criticized?

还有 什么
Is there anything left worth talking about?

This cannot be joked about.

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