Cantonese Vocabulary
Verbs 3

The verbs section is arranged differently than the other vocabulary lessons on this site.  Instead of arranging words in terms of a theme, they will be arranged according to the type of object which they take.

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Verb+VP

The following verbs take a Verb Phrase as their objects.  They can be considered helping verbs, or auxiliaries.  When they do not take an object, they act as the main verbs of the sentence and their object is understood from previous context.

/ho/ yih

can

可以

**

/nang/ gau

able to

能夠

**

/wuih/

will

**

Verb + S

The following verbs always take a sentence as their objects.  If they appear without an object, a sentence from the previous context must be understood as its object.

\ji\ dou

know

知道

**

\yihng\ waih

think/suppose

認為

**

Verb + NP/VP

The following verbs take either a Noun Phrase or a Verb Phrase as their objects.  In some cases, the type of object the verb takes can alter its meaning.  If one of the following verbs does not have an object in a sentence, there is probably an understood object in the previous context.  The first selection is the verb by itself or with a default object, the second and third are the verb and an NP object, and the fourth and fifth selections are the verb and a VP object.

hohk

to study

def

jeun beih

to prepare

準備

io

\leih\

to come

**

ngoi

to love

 

-sik-

know how

**

/waan/

to play

**

Verb + VP/S

The following verbs take either a Verb Phrase or a Sentence as their objects.  If they appear without an object, a sentence or action from the previous context must be understood as its object.  The first selection is the verb by itself or with a default object, the second and third are the verb and an VP object, and the fourth and fifth selections are the verb and a sentence object.

gok -dak-

to feel

覺得

**

/seung/

want

**
 

Notes

IO- This verb can take an Indirect Object
RC- Can take a resultative complement in place of an object
Def- The first choice in the box is the verb's default object

/ho/ yih functions almost exactly like the English word "can" (with the exception that it does not become a noun meaning a cylindrical aluminum container).  It can mean "able", as in "can you get up?" It can mean "willing", as in "can you pass me the salt?"  It can mean "have permission", as in "can you come out and play?"

/nang/ and /nang/ gau function almost exactly the same in Cantonese.  They can take the same objects.

/wuih/ acts much like the English word "will".  It indicates future action or intent.  In written Chinese, however, it also has the meaning of "able to", but not in oral Cantonese.

\ji\ dou refers to factual knowledge rather than procedural ability.  In most cases it contrasts in meaning with -sik-\ji\ dou is often abbreviated with just \ji\.

\yihng\ waih means to think something, but has the connotation of supposition and is often used when explaining erroneous thinking.

hohk is a special case in that it can take "jaahp" as its object and become compound verb that takes the same object that hohk alone would take.  So, instead of "hohk \sou\ hohk" (learn math) or "hohk /da/ -bo-" (learn to play ball), you could say "hohk jaahp \sou\ hohk" or "hohk jaahp /da/ -bo-" and it would mean the same thing.  But to simply say "to learn" you would add jaahp as the default.

jeun beih does not need an object, even understood from context, although it generally does take one.  When taking a noun phrase, it will often take VP as a direct object explaining what the preparation is for.  These NP/VP combinations taken separately may form a grammatical sentence, but the meaning is changed from the original and so the sentence is not an object of the verb jeun beih.

\leih\ is also a resultative complement, opposite in meaning as heui

/waan/ when followed by a VP means that the action being done is not taken seriously, or is done for fun.  For example, in the example "/waan/ /da/ \gung\", this would mean a person who does not need to work who takes a job because he or she wants to, or a person who takes a job but doesn't really care if he or she loses it.

gok -dak- can mean either "to feel" or "to think" (like, 'I feel we need some time apart').  Note that gok -dak- takes only Functive Verbs as the VP.  In English these would be adjectives, but in Cantonese they act very much like verbs.

/seung/ means "to want to do something" and does not refer to wanting a noun.  Contrast it with "/seung/ yiu" and "yiu".  It also has a second meaning "to miss" (as in, 'I miss you very much').  When it has this meaning, it takes an NP instead of a VP/S.


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