Useful Structures to Soften the tone in Chinese
Many Chinese learners have come across the word “一下” (yī xià), the meaning of which is a bit vague. Consequently, some students find it hard to grasp the use of this word. In this article, let’s take a close look at “verb + 一下 (yī xià)” and two other relative structures that can be used to soften the tone in Chinese.
1. Verb + 一下 (yī xià)
This structure refers to a certain action that doesn’t last long, and it could be translated as “to do a bit of something”. The most common phrases that you may hear in Chinese people’s daily lives are 看一下 (kàn yī xià) – have a look and 等一下 (děng yī xià) – wait a minute.
Another important functions of “verb” + 一下 (yī xià) is that it can make you sound less “aggressive”. Let’s take a look at the following examples to help you better understand the use of this structure:
Wǒ kěyǐ kàn yī xià nǐ de shū ma?
Can I take a look at your book?
As you’re asking someone to show you his or her book, you certainly would like your question to sound polite.
Wǒ xiǎng wèn yī xià zhè shì shénme.
I’d like to ask what this is.
Although you’re just asking a casual question, you still want to ask it in a courteous way.
2. Verb + Verb
This structure can be considered identical to “verb + 一下 (yī xià)” in terms of their meanings and functions. Therefore, they’re interchangeable in most situations. Nevertheless, “verb + verb” also implies doing something in a relaxed atmosphere.
Xiàwǔ wǒ xǐhuān tīng tīng yīnyuè.
In the afternoon I like listening to some music.
Wǒ jīntiān dǎsuàn shōushí shōushí fángjiān.
I plan to clean my room today.
to clean, to tidy up
3. Verb + 一 (Yī) + Verb
The two structures explained above can be replaced by verb + 一 (yī) + verb in most cases. However, this structure can only be applied to verbs that contain one character. For instance, “准备” (zhǔnbèi) means “to prepare”. Since it contains two characters, verb + 一 (yī) + verb” cannot be used when you would like to say “to prepare a bit”.
Wǒmen kěyǐ liáo yī liáo Zhōngguó wénhuà.
We can have a chat about Chinese culture.
To find out more interesting and useful Chinese vocabulary, check out one of our blog posts 5 Ways to Eat in Chinese: Takeouts, Dine-in and More