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How to Teach Learners to Use 还, 再 and 又

When foreigners began to learn Chinese in China, they may feel confused by some characters or words that have the similar meanings or functions. For the purpose of helping them to solve this problem, this essay will explain one difficult point in detail.

The three characters “还”, “再” and “又” is a difficult point for those who just learn Mandarin in China to tell apart. To teach the differences, teacher can first write down the sentence “他去了北京 去西安” on the blackboard and ask them to fill the blank with one of the three characters “还”, “再” and “又”.

Of course, students may fill it differently. After that, teacher can tell them that all of the answers are right, but the meaning is totally different. So teachers in qualified Mandarin program should explain that “他去了北京还去西安” indicates the action will happen again but not finished yet. “他去了北京再去西安” emphasizes that the order of the two actions and “他去了北京又去西安” means that the actions are in succession.

Here are two more examples to help foreign learners to study Chinese: “明天我还来” and “明天我再来”. Both of them express the continuation of the actions, but the former one stresses that “continuation”, carrying the meaning of “still”. Besides, “还” emphasizes the subjective desire but “再” emphasizes the objective demand for repeating the actions. Accordingly , we can say like this: “这里太舒服了,明天我还来” and “他不在没关系,我明天再来”.

However, the character “又” expresses the realized actions or behaviors. So foreigners who study in China can’t say “明天我又来” but should say “我昨天来过,今天又来了”. Sometimes, if the former part is missing, it implies this kind of things have been done before. For examples, “今年又是个丰收年” and “她又生我的气了”.

In the sentences, if the character “又” appears between the same verbs or classifiers, it means “many times”, “over again and again”. When you learn to speak Chinese, you will find this point is reflected in the sentences like “他解释了又解释” and “他一次又一次地问我这个问题”.

What’s more, “还” also can describe the actions have been done. But foreigners who learn Chinese language in China should know that it stress the continuation of the actions or status but not appear repeatedly. Here are two examples. “他还在看电视”, “我的同屋还没回来”.

Mostly, “再” indicates the repetition of the unrealized actions such as “别走!再坐一会儿”, “什么?请你再说一遍” and “我再考虑考虑,明天答复你”. When you learn Mandarin in China, teachers will tell you that “还” can’t be used in the above three sentences because there are “一会儿”, “一遍” and repeated verbs. They are the conditions that “还” is not allowed.

If there are modal verbs like “要”, “能”, “应该”, “必须” and “需要” in the sentences, in most cases, “还” is placed before the modal verbs while “再” is after. The examples to illustrate it are “明天我还要去一趟书店” and “明天我还要再去一趟书店”. During the process of learning Mandarin Chinese, if you find “再” is before the modal verbs, it expresses the assumption relation like “我再能说,也说不过你呀”.

All of them can be used to express the continuation or repetition of the actions, so overseas students find it is difficult to distinguish when they attend to Chinese school in China. Therefore, they should practice more.

After comparing the grammatical features of “还”, “再” and “又”, learners can have a clear image about the application and the differences. 

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