使用 / 用

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by kyrintethron, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    The more I use Chinese, the more I realize the plethora of synonymous words it has. Today's troublesome pair is 使用 and 用. I've searched far and wide for a differentiation between these two, and aside from 用 having more meanings and uses (no pun intended), I cannot for the life of me figure out the difference between them regarding the definition "to use". I even consulted zdic, and it gave me essentially the same definition for both words.

    Can anyone tell me the difference between 使用 and 用? or if they are the same, what are the nuances that distinguish their usage (again, no pun intended) in everyday speech and writing?

  2. Lucia_zwl

    Lucia_zwl Senior Member

    They are interchangeable in some context, but I think it's difficult to distinguish the two words without any context.
    Generally, I'd say 使用 is more often seen in formal/written context than 用 when referring to "use".
    Here you can find some collocations of 使用, while 用 doesn't work here.
  3. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    They're basically the same. Superficially, 使用 may sound more formal than 用 but that is not a real difference. The real difference I can tell is in some contexts only one and not the other is acceptable or sounding better. You can find a couple of real sentences with 使用/ 用 in it and try the substitution test. We can help you in judging their naturalness and acceptablilty.

    Cross-posted with Lucia :)
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  4. goodatchinese Junior Member

    Basiclly the same.
    Here's a special case.
    "用餐" means "have meal".

    "用药" means "take medicine" 。
    And "用药" means different in "那个医生用药很特别" from "take medicine".
    Hope others help us translate "那个医生用药很特别" cause I don't have a good one.

    "使用餐" and "使用药" are not correct.
    There should be more but not occur to me now.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2013
  5. zhg Senior Member

    As metioned above, they are similar, without a specifc sentence it's hard to tell which one to use. And I know it's inappropriate to comment on usages of words that are without specific contexts, but through my personal observation, I think maybe sometimes we subconsciously choose one over the other because of the surbordinate words (or other reasons as xiaolijie suggested,like "to sound formal") ,that is to say, two-syllable-word 使用 serves the purpose of "balancing structures" (to "correspond to other two-syllable-word-s 推广 and 挑选) as in the sentences in nciku quoted by Lucia , where using monosyllable word 用 would be unidiomatic. However this is just my own speculation and for reference only.
  6. Ben pan Senior Member

    The construct of 使用 is actually a repetition of two similar word with the same meaning. 使 means "to use it", for instance, 我不会使这玩意儿= I do not know how to use it. 用 has the same meaning. So, there is essentially no difference at all. The fact that 推广和使用 is better than 推广和用 is just due to the requirement of parallelism. Parallelism is extremely important in Chinese. As for the discernment that 用 is more informal, 使用is formal, I slightly disagree. Sometimes in modern Chinese, it stands, but in ancient Chinese, especially in the long tradition of writing the art of which was monopolized by the literati, this sort of difference perishes away.
  7. stellari Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    Besides the very good answers given above, I believe that 使用 can be used as or in place of a noun, whereas 用 cannot. For example, in 国语的推广和使用, here 使用 is used instead of 用 mainly due to the reason aforementioned. Parallelism is a possible explanation for many expressions of similar structure. However, in this particular context, 使用 must be used even when 推广 is taken out of the sentence(国语的用 doesn't make much sense to me). So I believe parallelism is not the key reason here.
  8. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    As usual, great observation, stellari! :)
  9. Ben pan Senior Member

    At least, in some context, the choice of 使用 in preference to 用 is due to its being a word(词语), not a character. Using a word to substitute a single character originates from the demand of parallelism, and demand of pronunciation and art of writing. But lately, words and a characters were endowed with very different functions.

    So, pay attention to that plain fact that they are on the different levels, one is a character 用, another is a complex word 使用.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  10. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    Ben pan,
    A word may consist of one (eg. 你, 用, 大, etc.) or more characters (eg. 电影, 使用, 圣诞节, etc.)
  11. Ben pan Senior Member

    Should I say a complex(compound) word in comparison with a simple character? 用 is an elemental unit of Chinese, it is used to construct compounds. For instance 用度,叙用,起用(vt), 用功,用力,用心(vi),用法,用量(noun). Although single character is more catchy and colloquial sometimes, 用 is not informal and not incapable of expressing a serious thought. 学贵大用而不贵小成,用智褊者无遂功,大用者参于天地... , these many usages were in many mind when I posted the first message. If 用 is a simple character that makes up a word, then it must be on the same level as 为,行,but not 做,干。The reason I stick to these usages is because I think there is no absolute line between modern and ancient Chinese, if you want to write a good Chinese article, both of them are indispensable.
  12. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    I can't see how what you're saying relates to what has gone before, Ben pan! So, let other members have their say, shall we? :)
  13. Ben pan Senior Member

    By good at Chinese.
    Yes, they are not correct, but does this help us to know the difference between 用 and 使用? 用餐 用药,用心,用力,用,,There are dozens of them, they are all derived from 用,which is an elemental character, simple and fundamental. Almost any noun plus 用 will become a verb(vi). But 使用 is on another level, it will never be used to form a complex word. So in my view, to form a comparison between them will not be instructive.
    By stellari.
    I believe he means that 用 cannot be a gerund, but in English is it possible that a verb cannot become a gerund, except some functional verbs as suffice?
    大用之,无用之..all of these them are gerunds.   

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  14. stellari Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    I am not even sure there is such a thing as 'gerund' in Mandarin so I avoided using that phrase in favour of the more generic term 'verbal noun' or 'verbs used in place of noun'. (You probably know better about this topic than I do though).
    As far as I am concerned, the 用 in 大用之,无用之 means ‘用处’ in modern Chinese. If that is the case, this 用 is equivalent to the English word 'use' as in 'What's the use?' As such, it is not even a gerund in English (an -ing word), but rather a verbal noun, let alone in Chinese.
    Well that actually reminds me: 用 could be used as a noun in modern Chinese after all. However, it means '用处'('use', [noun form]) rather than '使用'('using'/'usage').
    e.g. 这件东西没什么用了(this thing does not have much use anymore).
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  15. Ben pan Senior Member

    A good analysis. Sorry that I am a stubborn man. You are right in correcting my usage of gerund, but as verbal noun, the meanings of 用 and 使用 converge.

    You say 用 is the same as "use", whereas 使用 is the Chinese counterpart of "usage"/using . I agree to differ. The "use" in "What is the use?","It has no use" is a noun qua noun, namely, an inner attribute, to predicate something about its property, therefore the same as "utility". It can hardly be said to be a verbal noun. So, if you want to differentiate the two Chinese words with reference to two English words, you have to choose another word for 用。

    And I want to ask you and others what is the difference between verbal noun and gerund in English. It seems to me if there is difference, it must have edged away to the sideline, because in English, verbal noun is not a very regular phenomenon. Most of the verbs do not have its forms of verbal noun, because the function or ergon of verbal noun is absorbed into gerund. The case is different from in German in which every verb can be a noun without adding the -ing.

    As to your assimilating 用处 with 用,by saying that the 用 in 无用之用 just means 用处, and so that the 用 in question is a noun, I have doubts too. 用处 is a noun, more precisely a noun phrase, but that is because it is the combination of 用 and 处,hence can be read as 'the places where it can be used', 'the possibility of the realization of its potentials, etc.

    A context is needed. Ji Kang played his Guqin all day long, hiding in the mountains. Shan Juyuan came around, and said what is the meaning of it? Ji replied: this is 无用之。Notice that is, for the link verb illustrates that 用 here is to represent an action.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2013
  16. kyrintethron Senior Member

    English - America
    Okay, here is my suuuuuuper late reply.

    Firstly, thank you all for such marvelous insights. They were greatly appreciated.

    Now, I'd like to offer my own thoughts on many of the things discussed (which may be quite fallacious, considering I'm a Chinese novice...so feel free to shoot down my analyses and opinions).

    by goodatchinese

    I've noticed that "particles" such as 是 and 的 are dropped often in Chinese sentences, and think the full version of that sentence would be something like: 那个医生用药很特别.

    Secondly, I noted that Ben pan indicated that: "Almost any noun plus 用 will become a verb(vi)." This reminds me very much of the flexible usage of the verb する in Japanese, which is also often suffixed to nouns to create new hybrid verbs. And in goodatchinese's original example, I believe that 用药 follows this pattern.

    However, in this one, I believe that 用药 is a noun phrase (as explained above by Ben pan) combining 用 and 药. So, rather than meaning "to use medicine", here it means "used medicine" or "medicine that is used", which of course is redundant, but kind of implies that the medicine that this doctor chooses to use is out-of-the-ordinary or at least worthy of note.

    Thus, I would say 那个医生用药很特别 would be translated to "that doctor's medicine is very special" or to keep the whole idea while maintaining sensible English, "that doctor's medicine-of-choice is very special". Though, the easiest way of conveying the idea (which totally scrambles the original word structure) would be "the medicine that doctor uses is very special".

    In response to Ben pan's inquiries about gerunds and verbal nouns, they somewhat overlap.

    In the languages in which gerunds exist, they typically fall into two categories: the form of the verb indicating its action (e.g. Playing tennis is fun); and the present participle used as an adjective (e.g. The barking dog won't shut the hell up). From what I've observed above, Chinese verbs technically has the function of a gerund as a particle (as indicated by the noun phrases above, like 用药 and 用处), but with much more flexibility, probably because of the lack of conjugation required to use it.

    I haven't studied enough to know about the "action" form, but I've seen words like 化 and 作用 used to mean "-ize" or "-ization" for nouns and adjectives (I've yet to study their usage in depth), so I suspect something similar exists for verbs...though I could be entirely mistaken, and likely am, lol.

    As for verbal nouns, in Enlgish, we used either the gerund (e.g. I like playing tennis) or the infinitive (e.g. I like to play tennis). The thing we don't really have in English is an easy way to use these as adjectival participles, hence my trouble in achieving a close translation of goodatchinese's sentence above. Even 用处 in meaning "a place to use something" is troublesome. "Using place" really doesn't make much sense in English, and the only way to convey this idea is with a convoluted phrase like "the place where it is used".

    Feel free to correct any mistakes I've made above...a lot of this is just guesswork based on the brilliance shared by all of you wonderful contributors.

    Meanwhile, I apologize profusely to xiaolijie, because I know this thread has deviated off-course, but the things shared here have helped me not only learn key differences between 用 and 使用, but have also shed light on the versatility of 用, the importance of parallelism, and the usage of verbal nouns in Chinese.

    Thank you, everyone,
  17. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    As the world becomes increasingly complicated, unambiguous words are all the more needed to define notions. One of the word formation methods involves the combination of two synonymous morphemes to emphasize their shared meaning. 使用, as Ben Pan pointed out in Post #6, is one of such examples. Given that the semantic domain of 使用 is a subset of 用, in theory we should be able to replace all cases of 使用 with 用. For instance, 国语的使用是必然的趋势 can be rewritten as 国语之乃必然之势也 although the former entails a contemporary style, while the latter an archaic one. As stated, 使用 is a subset of 用, which means some meanings of 用 (e.g., 用药 'prescribe', 用餐 'consume') are not covered by 使用. Since the OP was initially interested in only the definition of "use", I will not address other usages other than "use" in the following:
    It is often a matter of collocation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collocation) and style. There is no easy answer. It takes many years of learning to catch those nuances. All I can do is giving you some oversimplified generalities:
    1. parallelism: 公车私用, where 公 "public" contrasts with 私 "private". 车 is a monosyllabic word. Therefore we expect a monosyllabic word to fill the blank 公车私__. What will you fill in the blank if we have 私自__? I would say 私自使用: 私自 two words, 使用 two words. Another example: 家电使用保养 ==> 使用 two words, 保养 two words.
    2. consistency: In the phrase 国语的推广和使用, 的 and 和 call for a contemporary term (Note: the use of synonymous compounds is more prevalent in modern time) and 推广 for a disyllabic word (for the reason of parallelism). These three words point to the choice of 使用.
    3. rhythm: I prefer "他用的是你教的法子" over "他使用的是你教的法子"; "他用刀切断绳子" over "他使用刀切断绳子". This category is highly subjective, purely a matter of style.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2013
  18. Ghabi

    Ghabi Moderator

    Hong Kong
    Moderator's Note: the discussion about the sentence 那个医生用药很特别 now has its own thread. Please stick to the topic of the current thread, namely the usage difference(s) between 用 and 使用. Thanks!
  19. GemiPiggy New Member

    I personally think they have following differences (modern Chinese only; "使用" would be two separated words in ancient Chinese):
    1. 使用 can be used as noun while 用 can not, unless it's a part of another word (e.g. 用途).
    2. When used as a verb, if the following noun is single character, usually only "用" is acceptable. When the following noun has multiple characters, they can be used interchangeable, but 使用 sounds more formal.
  20. GemiPiggy New Member

    Modern Chinese and classical Chinese(文言文) are quite different though sometime, we would embed classical style phases or sentences in a modern article which is just like quotes a Shakespeare-style saying in an English article.
    公车私用 is classical style - if you say this to an uneducated Chinese, he would not understand it. You have to say it like "公家的车,私人用"


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