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显+monosyllablic adjective / 显得+disyllabic adjective

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by lautaro, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. lautaro

    lautaro Senior Member

    Mediolanum, Italia
    Español chileno, Italiano del nord


    A: 你叫我“老马”呢?五年没见了,我真的显老吗?
    B: 中国人称呼比自己大的朋友,一般是在姓前面加上一个“老”字。像“老张”啊,“老王”啊,叫你“老马”,显得亲热!

    my teacher said I shall use 显+one word adjective and 显得+two words adjective but my try was 她显得生病了 (she seems to be ill) and she said it was wrong. The right sentence is 她看起来病了. Maybe it is because 生病 means to fall ill and not ill, is it? But 显得很着急then?

    As usual, many thanks to all your responses.

  2. alejandro123 Junior Member

    good question, I've always been wondering what is the diffrence between 显得 and 看起来
  3. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    This is not correct and will lead to confusion and mistakes. 显 and 显得 should be treated as separate words and learned separately.

    There are some differences. The main one is 显得 tends to be followed by and adjectival (phrase) and 看起来 can be followed also by some other types. For this reason, you can say:

    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
  4. Lucia_zwl

    Lucia_zwl Senior Member

    Hmm...that's really tricky... Sometimes they are interchangeable, but sometimes not.

    I would say, you'll need a reason to say 显得, while 看起来 just means something/someone looks XXX.
    I can think of a context to tell the difference between 显得 and 看起来:
    Here 看起来 and 显得 are not interchangeable. A says that B looks thinner than before without a reason, since it's just a feeling. B says she herself looks/seems thinner because she is wearing black.

    她看起来病了 is fine. If you wanna use 显得, I would say, 她最近无精打采,显得像生病了似的/显得病怏怏的。

    If there is a reason, I'd say this sentence also works to me.

    I don't agree either...perhaps the first half is right, but 穿黑衣服显瘦 and 穿黑衣服显得瘦 both sound good to me. Maybe 显得 is more formal...

    Hope this helps~

    EDIT: oh I just found another explanation on the internet: 显得 indicates that something/someone makes something/someone look/seem XXX. So, we can say 穿黑衣服显得瘦 means "wearing black makes her look thinner"
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
  5. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    That is right, Lucia! In contrast, 看起来 can also means that something looks a certain way and that is the way it naturally looks. For this reason, 显得就是一副很稚气的样子 doesn't sound right in the following context:
    but the one below (with 看起来) sounds much more natural:
  6. SuperXW Senior Member

    alejandro123, I think it's understandable if you use 显得 instead of 看起来 in all cases, such as your 显得就是一副很稚气的样子, although strictly speaking, 看起来 is the correct one.
    I will analyse the difference in this way:
    "得+adj" is a fixed way of expression. So 显得很瘦 good. 显得就是…… not good. 显得一副很稚气的样子 not good.
    "看起来" can be followed by adjective, verb phrase or other conponents, so it's more adaptable. E.g. 看起来很瘦,看起来就是那个人,看起来做得不错,看起来很弱的样子…… all good.
    But 看起来 has one limitation: it must have something to do with "vision", while 显得 could refer to a more general feeling. In starter's post, 显得亲热 "feels intimate" is a good usage, while "看起来亲热" only means "looks intimate".
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
  7. SuperXW Senior Member

    Your teacher is talkng about a habit of Mandarine speakers. I don't think you must memorize the rules. Just practice more would do.
    The habit is:
    single character verb (seem, become etc.) + simpler adjective
    E.g. 显胖, 显瘦, 显老, 显年轻, 显病, 变老, 变强...
    I think the reason is that in Chinese mind, two characters can become a basic unit of "word". This two character structure feels stable and balanced for use.

    single character verb (seem, become etc.) + 得 + longer and more complicate adjective
    E.g. 显得太胖, 显得很瘦, 显得非常老, 显得不年轻, 显得病怏怏的, 变得老奸巨猾, 变得强悍无比...

    显得生病了 is wrong because 得+adjective is the correct way, while 生病 in Chinese is not an adjective, it's a verb+noun compound instead.
  8. BODYholic Senior Member

    Chinese Cantonese
    Before we go any further, are you certain that "生病" is an adjective?

    Also, instances when 显得 and 看起来 are interchangeable, the former is always more formal. 看起来 is colloquial and you rarely hear this term in TV or printed advertisements, for example.

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
  9. tarlou Senior Member

    I think 就是 and 稚气 are the problems here. Neither sentence is exactly correct.
    The follows are all correct.

    Also I don't think 穿黑衣服显得瘦 is a very good sentence. I'd say 穿黑衣服显瘦.

    Edit: But 穿黑衣服显得瘦 sounds good. Maybe that's an issue of stress and pace.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
  10. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    Tarlou, you're taking the discussion into a different direction. It's possible to pick out anything in a sentence and talk about it but please refrain from doing so and stick to the points being discussed.
  11. Lucia_zwl

    Lucia_zwl Senior Member

    Yep~so this is a marked difference. In your context, 看起来 is correct while 显得 is not, since it's natural for a child to look like a child. But if it's an adult that looks like a child (or behaves childishly), 显得 will be better. e.g.

    @SuperXW, but we can also say 白色的墙面显得屋子很干净, right?

    This sounds reasonable as for distinguishing 显/显得. I agree~
  12. lautaro

    lautaro Senior Member

    Mediolanum, Italia
    Español chileno, Italiano del nord
    I think that's a good explanation.
    About *显生病 I think I was led into mistake by the fact that, as non-native speaker, I normally consider 生病 like an adjective and not like and adjectival phrase. This lead me into temptation of using it as adjective... :eek:

    Beyond grammar explanation I think I have understood that if I want to use 显/显得 there must be a reason, something that starts the fire for the appearance: he seems old because long time has passed. Differently if I want to use 看起来 I need to express a simple sensation, a feeling.
  13. SuperXW Senior Member

    Hmm, looks like the following format should be included:
    显得 (+something is) + adjective.
    显得人很瘦, 显得我大方, 显得屋子很干净...
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013

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