Adverbs of Range – Chinese Adverbs

There are 6 types of adverbs and this post will focus on adverbs of range.

In our tagging system of The Mandarin Blueprint Method Foundation Course, we refer to adverbs as “How-DoesWhat,” because that’s how they function. Adverbs tell you how an individual action takes place. We divide the sentences that contain adverbs into the following categories:

1. Deny 否定 (fǒudìng) – An adverb that denies or negates the action also called a negative adverb

2. How Often 频率 (pínlǜ) – An adverb that shows the frequency of an action also called adverb of frequency 

3. In What Range 范围 (fànwéi) – An adverb that specifies the range of an action or also called scope adverb or adverb of range

4. Time 时间 (shíjiān) – An adverb that adds context to the amount of time that relates to an action can also be named adverb of time

5. To What Degree 程度 (chéngdù) – An adverb that specifies the degree of an action or adverb of degree

6. Tone of Voice 语气 (yǔqì) – An adverb that influences the tone of voice surrounding the action can also be called adverb of mood or modal adverb

The Chinese word for “adverb” is 副词 fùcí, which translates to “‘auxiliary’ or ‘subsidiary’ word.” Considering that you can’t use adverbs alone and must attach them to an action, “subsidiary” is an apt description.

Whenever you think of how an adverb works, remember that there’s a simpler sentence that exists without it. An adverb never makes the sentence go from being grammatically incorrect to grammatically correct, but it sure can change the meaning. 

Adverbs of Range

For this lesson, we’ll use the adverbs of range 副词-范围 (fùcí-fànwéi) to illustrate this point.

Sentence 1:

我只担心我的儿子。- Level 13
Wǒ zhǐ dānxīn wǒde érzi
I only worry about my son.

Without the adverb of range 只 (zhǐ) ‘only,’ this sentence means, “I’m worried about my son.”

There’s nothing wrong with that sentence grammatically, but by adding 只 (zhǐ), you specify in what range you feel worried.

Perhaps you worry about everything. Maybe you worry about your son, along with hundreds of other things. Without adding an adverb that specifies the range, there’s no way to tell.

After adding 只 (zhǐ), however, we know that the speaker’s worry is limited only to the son. 

Sentence 2 – Adverbs of Range:

他光会说空话。- Preview Sentence
Tā guāng huì shuō kōnghuà 。
He’s all talk.

Another adverb of range similar to this, but a little more advanced would be 光 (guāng), which is used in a similar way.

Sentence 3:

仅仅一个多月我就减掉了十磅! – Preview Sentence
Jǐnjǐn yī gè duō yuè wǒ jiù jiǎndiào le shí bàng 。
I lost ten pounds in just a little over a month!

How about another adverb of range 仅仅 (jǐnjǐn), which also means “only,” but in the sense of “not that much” or “merely.”

Sentence 4 – Adverbs of Range:

人每天都要吃饭。- Level 15
Rén měitiān dōu yào chīfàn
People all need/want to eat every day.

The way Chinese uses 都 (dōu) ‘all’ can be tricky for people to conceptualize because, in English, it’s often unnecessary to say. In this sentence, it’s an emphasizer of quantity.

You could say “人每天要吃饭”(Rén měitiān yào chīfàn) and be grammatically correct, but people will rarely say it that way. Why? Because 都 (dōu) emphasizes high quantity, and most people naturally think of “every day” 每天 (měitiān) as a lot of days. 

Another way to use the adverb of range 都 (dōu) to specify range is more literal. For example, “你们三个人都要吃饭吗? Do all three of you want to eat?” Here, 都 (dōu) is still specifying range because not all three people may want to eat.  

Sentence 5:

行为的改变才会带来结果的改变。- Level 18
Xíngwéi de gǎibiàn cái huì dàilái jiéguǒ de gǎibiàn
Only changes in behavior will bring about changes in results.

We love this one! In this sentence, the adverb of range 才 (cái) indicates that the previously specified statement is the only way to achieve the following statement. If you remove 才 (cái), the message is, “Changes in behavior bring about changes in results.”

By adding the adverb of range 才 (cái), you limit the range considerably. ONLY changes in behavior will bring about changes in results. Theoretically, something else could change the results, but by adding 才 (cái), you’ve specified that, nope, it’s only behavior! Cool, eh?

Sentence  6:

你主要是太害怕了。- Level 19
Nǐ zhǔyào shì tài hàipà le
Mainly, you’re too scared.

主要 (zhǔyào) is an adverb for specifying the range of relevant factors. 

For example, perhaps someone is preparing to give a speech. They’ve prepared well, they know the topic inside and out, got plenty of sleep, had a good breakfast, etc., but they’re still quite scared about the speech.

It’s at this point that the speaker may say “你主要是太害怕了” (Nǐ zhǔyào shi tài hàipàle) because they want to specify that other factors aren’t as important.

Sentence 7 – Adverbs of Range:

中国银行就在我家对面。- Level 19
Zhōngguó yínháng jiù zài wǒ jiā duìmiàn
Bank of China is right across the street from my house.

As you’ve likely already discovered, 就 (jiù) has a lot of usages in Chinese. In this case, it’s specifying precision.  

The speaker adds the adverb of range 就 (jiù) to clarify that it’s not just across the street in general, it’s directly across the street. Whenever you want to emphasize that something is exactly as you say, use 就 (jiù) before the verb. 

Something you’ll hear all the time is somebody responding to a question with 就是 (jiùshì), which is the speaker clarifying that something is exactly right. Keep an eye (and ear!) out for it.

Sentence 8:

你完全做错了。- Level 21
Nǐ wánquán zuòcuò le
You did it completely wrong.

So, you didn’t just do it wrong; you did it COMPLETELY 完全 (wánquán) wrong. Once again, the adverb of range 完全 (wánquán)  is not a requirement for the sentence to make sense; it just specifies the range. Perhaps you did something wrong, but only a part of it.

If that were true, the speaker could say, “你做错了 (Nǐ zuò cuòle) You did it wrong” or “你有一部分做错了 (nǐ yǒu yībùfende zuòcuò le) – You partially did it wrong.” Unfortunately for you, the speaker needed to specify 完全 (wánquán). Bummer!

Chinese Adverbs
7 September , 2020
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