As a language, Chinese itself is not easy to learn. The abundant similar words make it harder to learn even for Chinese people, not to speak of foreign students who learn Chinese in China. So some groups of similar words will be analyzed in the following parts to help students to make differences.
There are always some similar words to distinguish in Mandarin learning courses. The first to discuss is the differences between “奥秘” and “秘密”. “奥秘” is a noun which means something wonderful and hard to understand like mystery. So we often say “大自然的奥秘” and “探索宇宙的奥秘”.
However, “秘密” is something unknown and hidden. When it functioned as an adjective, it means “unknown” in “秘密活动”, “秘密情况”. When used as a noun, it indicates something or objects that people don’t know. We can say “一个秘密”, “我们之间的秘密”. It is better for teachers to teach Mandarin language by using some frequently-used examples.
Now let’s move our attention to the second group “把握” and “掌握”. For “把握”, when it used as a verb, it implies “to seize and to hold”, the objects can be either concrete things, for instance, “把握方向盘”, or something abstract like “把握时机”. It you study in China, this word would be frequently used, especially used as a noun, which means the basis or confidence of being successful. We often say “有把握” and “把握很大”.
However, “掌握” can be used only as a verb, usually meaning “know something very well and be able to put it into use”. So we say “掌握多种语言”. Another meaning is to take control of something like “掌握自己的命运”. We also can say if you can “掌握” the characteristics of Chinese characters, you will learn Chinese language better.
Both “伴随” and “跟随” are only used as verb but differ in meanings. “伴随” shows “accompany with something or someone”, emphasizing things or person are together. Let me take two examples, “各国运动员伴随着进行曲走入运动场” and “伴随着经济的发展, 人们的精神要求也在提高”. This group of words also often taught in Chinese language school.
But “跟随” signifies “to follow”, stressing following behind someone. The objects are often people. To study Chinese vividly, we often take examples like “请大家跟随我来” and “他紧紧跟随在我身后，生怕和我走散了” to explain.
The students who have attended to school to study Mandarin for a while may be familiar with the words “保存” and “保管”. The word “保存” only can be functioned as a verb, implying “to protect something to keep existing without damage”. It can be followed by the concrete things as well as some abstract things like tradition, appearance, habit, etc. Here are two examples: “保存资料” and “这里依然保存着50年前的旧貌”.
When “保管” is functioned as a verb, it carry the meaning of “ to manage or supervise”. Only the concrete things can be used as its objects. When going school to study in China, typical example like “保管财物” will be illustrated to tell the differences. As a noun, it indicates someone who take in charge of something”, for example, “仓库管理今天没来”.
To distinguish the tiny differences between two similar words and to learn Mandarin better, the best way is always to illustrate some frequently-used phrases and sentences to explain.
These groups of similar words studied above are some common ones, students should practice more to memorize them and put them into use.