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Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Yuca007, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. Yuca007 Senior Member


    Dialogue: The mother is on the phone with her older daughter. She says that she raised two children and wants the younger one to be with her after her graduation. She then says: 总不能都离我而去吧

    My guess is that is means something like "You can't all leave me", but I'm puzzled by the usage of 总 and 而. What's the correct translation and what functions do the aforementioned parts serve?

  2. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    You've got the correct translation. To answer your question simply: 总 just adds emphasis to 不能 and the sentence is fine without 总 in this case. 离而去: you can think of 而 as "and" in phrases like "verb1 而 verb2" .
  3. Yuca007 Senior Member

    And if you had to translate 总 - at least for demonstration purposes - what might it mean here?

    Also, is there a rule on when to use 而? Is it something that's sometimes put between single-syllable verbs? Is it more in the formal or informal spectrum? I have encountered 而 before, but I couldn't never quite see the bigger picture behind it.
  4. SuperXW Senior Member

    I think 总 in 总不能 has the essential meaning of 总结, 总归, which means "finally", "in summary" in English.
  5. stellari Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    For me, 总 here expresses a mild complaint that whatever it modifies (in this sentence, 不能离我而去) is supposed to be a very justifiable and reasonable demand or suggestion, and the opposite (离我而去) is a rip-off, discrimination, or simply does not make any sense. It is usually used with 吧, because it is not a very strong assertion, but rather, a mild protest or complaint. Compare the two following sentences:

    现在该我了吧? -> Now it should be my turn, right?
    现在总该我了吧? -> NOW it should be my turn (that I have been waited for very long), right? (It is not reasonable if it is still not my turn.)

    Similarly, in your sentence, 总 implies that 不能离我而去 is a very reasonable request and should be granted.

    而 is much more extensively used in ancient Chinese. Nowadays, using 而 would give a antique, formal, sometimes poetic feel to your sentence. In modern Chinese, 而 mostly means 1) 'and/ and then/ but' or 2) 'in the manner of' or 3) (see next paragraph). The second interpretation makes more sense in 不能离我而去, but the first one is also not wrong ( 1. can't leave me and go away / 2. can't go away leaving me). Here, the mother could have just said 总不能都离开我吧, but she chose a slightly more archaic/formal way of putting it.

    There is another very important usage of 而 though.:
    为/因为 + A + 而 + verb = do ... just because of/ for the sake of A .
    In this usage, A is the cause, and the verb is the consequence of A.

    (因)为……而…… is roughly equivalent to the English '... for the sake of...'. For instance:

    为他而流泪 -> shed tear for his sake/for him. Here 而 can be omitted, but keeping it gives a formal/poetic tone to the sentence. I guess 'sake' can also be omitted from the English sentence.
    为爱而爱 -> Love for love's sake. Here 而 cannot be omitted, just as 'sake' cannot be omitted from the English sentence.

    Another example that uses both '总' and '而':
    不能为了他一个人(而)放弃整个任务 -> (We) can't abort the mission because of him (that's an order, period).
    总不能为了他一个人(而)放弃整个任务吧 -> (We) can't abort the mission JUST because of him (think about it, the whole mission is much more important than just one person).

    而 can be omitted in the example, but is usually preferable if it is a part of an eloquent speech.
  6. Yuca007 Senior Member

    That was an excellent explaination on both points, stellari. :)

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