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Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by laoshi77, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. laoshi77 New Member

    I'm really happy I've found this forum - hope to get answers to all my Chinese language questions here :). I'd like to ask you about the exact meaning of the phrase 什么人 like in 他是什么人?Is it a question about a person's nationality or character? Thanks in advance!
  2. viajero_canjeado Senior Member

    English - Southeastern USA
    It means "who is that person?" or simply "who is that?", "who is he/she?" Doesn't really have anything to do with the person's nationality or character, just a general question.

    甚麼/什么 in English can mean "what" or sometimes "which" or even "who", as in your example. Another common phrase that is similar is 什麼地方, which means "where, what place".

    Thanks for your post, 老師, and welcome to the forum! Dyen dobre~
  3. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    什么人 means all sorts of things in different contexts, but in your question "他是什么人?", it's fairly certain that it means "Who is he?". This question is not about his name but about his social position, just like "who" in: "Don't mess about with him. Do you know who he is?"
    Anyway, that is my guess but I'd need some context to be 100% sure.

    Welcome to the forum, laoshi77! :)
  4. Lucia_zwl

    Lucia_zwl Senior Member


    As Viajero and XLJ have said, this is a general question like "who is he?", and the answer varies depending on the context.

    To ask for one's nationality, you can say 他是哪国人?or 他是哪里(的)人?
    To ask for one's character, you can say 他人怎么样?or 他性格怎么样?
  5. Jun zhi

    Jun zhi New Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    In some cases, it can be used ironically also.
    For example, "他是什么人?!竟敢来管我"
    In this sentence, 他是什么人?=他以为自己是个人物=He think he is somebody(but actually he is not).
  6. laoshi77 New Member

    谢谢你们:) Is 什么人 therefore equivalent to 谁?Like 他是什么人 = 他是谁?
  7. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    他是谁?is normally just a question for information, maybe you just want to know a bit about the person, such as his name.

    他是什么人? is normally asking about that person's status or importance (Unlike "他是谁?" above, you may still ask "他是什么人?" even when you already know his name). Just like when you say "他不是什么人", you mean he's not someone important. You can see also post #3 and #5 above, where we referred to this particular meaning.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012

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