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The Different Syntactic Distribution of “差不多”and “差一点”Provided by the Chinese Program in China

Learning Chinese in China, you will find the two words “差不多”and “差一点” are little bit similar. About the syntactic distribution of “差不多”and “差一点“, the 800 Modern Chinese Words only mentions that ”差不多“ can co-occur with verb, adjective and quantifier but not points out the limitations. As for the grammar appearance of ”差一点“, students who are learning Chinese in China found that most articles only focus on the different grammar meanings got when the affirmative and negative patterns of verb or adjective co-occur. Few people researched the syntactic distribution carefully, except for one teacher of Chinese program in China mentioned that all the verbs that co-occur with ”差一点“should have appended elements and the single verbs will not be used usually. Therefore before we further analyze ”差不多“ and ”差一点“, we should be clear about the syntactic distribution of them.

According to the analysis of students of Chinese program in China, “差不多“ can modify verb, adjective when it is used as adverb. Besides it can also co-occur with quantifier noun phrase:

他差不多吃完了。(verb, predicate)

苹果差不多熟了。(adjective, predicate)

我吃了差不多两个(馒头)。(quantifier (noun) phrase, object)

Obviously, verb and adjective are predicates, while quantifier noun phrase belong to nominals and locate in the position of predicate and object. Actually, verbs and adjectives that co-occur with “差不多“ are not limited to be predicate. They can also be complement. The teachers of Chinese program in China give us some examples as following:

他累得差不多要死了。(verb, complement)

苹果长得差不多熟了。(adjective, complement)

In addition to this, quantifier (noun) phrase concluded by members of Chinese program in China is not limited to only be object. It can also be subject, must object, attribute or adverbial modifier which appears between preposition phrase and preposition. Let’s look at the following examples provided by the Chinese program in China:

差不多三十个人吃了这种药。 (subject)

他去了差不多三次。(must object)


他在差不多五十个城市都留下了他的足迹。(adverbial of place)

我们在差不多二十年内完成了这项工程。(adverbial of time)

In addition to the above components, “差不多“can co-occur with other body nominal elements, like universal quantificational noun phrase. The universal quantificational noun phrase and quantifier noun phrase are researched by the Chinese program in China and found that their grammar appearance is almost the same. They can be subject, attribute or adverbial modifier together with prepositional phrase. The Chinese program in China concluded some examples:




As for these, the Chinese program in China thinks that components which can co-occur with “差不多”are body nominals, including quantifier phrase, universal quantificational noun phrase and predicates, such as verb, adjective and some adverb related to predicate.

Although “差一点”and “差不多”are quite close in meanings, the words that can co-occur with “差一点”are different with words above. Students who are having Chinese program in China listed some parts of speech, including predicate and complement.

There are still some other parts of speech which can co-occur with “差一点”. They require you to study and learn more by yourselves.

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