use of neng, keyi, or hui


In the lesson quiz the question asked was what is the translation of "wo hui shuo xie xie", the answer was "i can say thank you" rather than "I know how to say thank you". There was likewise a note saying beside the "i can say thank you" the pin yin, "wo neng shuo xie xie". I am a bit confused as to use of the words neng, keyi and hui in this context as the meanings seem to be almost similar. Xiexie nin.


Yes, you're right! They're almost the same, and can be quite tricky. But I'll help you as much as I can :) Loosely speaking, neng, ke yi, hui = can But strictly speaking, there's a difference between three of them :) neng = refers to 'can' as in you're ABLE TO, or you're PERMITTED to do something (more to ABLE TO). > wo neng du zhong wen = I'm able to read Chinese. = I can read Chinese. ke yi = refers to 'can' as in you're ABLE TO, and you're PERMITTED to do something (more to PERMITTED to do something) > ni ke yi chu qu le = You're permitted to go out now. = You can go out now. hui = refers to 'can' as in you KNOW HOW TO. > wo hui du zhong wen = I know how to read Chinese. = I can read Chinese. > wo hui hua hua (hua hua = draw) = I know how to draw. = I can draw. SO - You use 'hui' when you're expressing that you know how to do something. - 'Ke yi' and 'neng' on the other hand have quite similar meaning, only a slight difference between them. In normal linguistic usage, they can be used interchangeably. I might made a mistake, so please check with others. Happy Chinese Learning! :)


Many thanks for your prompt reply. It was most helpful.


You're most welcome :)


Wong, thanks for the explanation, it makes a lot of sense. And good that this forum keeps questions and answers for many years! It seems to me then, that "wǒ huì shuō xièxie" should be the correct response. Because what else would "I can say thank you" mean in the context of this course than "I know how to say thank you [in Chinese]"?


Hello. I'm happy you find it useful. I do not take the course, so I'm not sure abt quiz. In everyday life, honestly it is quite weird to say "I can say thank you." To exaggerate about a foreign language, imagine meeting an alien from outer space. If he/she/it can say "thank you" (in English), you will be quite impressed already! Saying in a full phrase conjures the image that you are bragging. Since you can form a phrase already, there's nothing shocking about the fact you can say "thank you." (To me it seems so, at least.) Another phrase most beginners learn for any language is to speak "I don't know X language" in that language itself. For example, wo bu dong zhong wen. I don't know Chinese. (But contradictorily, you are speaking Chinese) That's another weird phrase people learn. If others can't tell you really can't understand except a few phrases, you might be dismissed as a rude guy. I read what I've typed above and that's not quite satisfactory. So here's take 2. A quick online dictionaries searches and translations, Take 2: >>>能 NENG 才干,本事:能力。能耐。才能。 Able/Capable 有才干的:能人。能手。贤能。能工巧匠。能者为师。 With ability/capability 胜任,善于:能够。能柔能刚。力所能及。欲罢不能。能动。 Able to do smt 会(表示可能性):小弟弟能走路了。 HUI (Shows possibility) My little brother can walk now. 应该:你不能这样说他。 Should. You shouldn't talk of him this way. 物理学名词,“能量”的简称:电能。热能。 Scientific: NENG LIANG energy >>>可以 可能、能够,也表示允许 你可以吃了。 Nĭ kĕyĭ chī le. Shows possibility, Able to do smt, Permitted to do smt. Example: You can eat now. >>>会 理解、懂得 他会汉语。 Tā huì hànyŭ. Understand, know (smt). He knows HAN YU (Chinese). 4. verb understand; grasp 5. verb be good at; be skillful in 6. verb can; be able to 7. verb be likely to; be sure to; will; would There you go. Funnily, anyone know the difference between Han Yu, hua Yu, hua wen and zhong wen? Haha I'm confused. I used them interchangeably because I can't differentiate them. Haha


I think the big difference between English and Chinese with respect to can is this: can is a helper verb in English and is usually followed by another verb. In Chinese, there are different verbs for the different purposes. There are other 'can' cases: can see = Kàndéjiàn (看得见) or kàndédào (看得到) can't see = Kànbùjiàn (看不见) or kànbùdào (看不到) can hear = tīngdéjiàn (听得见) or tīngdédào (听得到) can't hear = tīngbùjiàn (听不见) or tīngbùdào (听不到) There are many more and I got these from the book "Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammer" by Qin Xue Herzberg & Larry Hertzberg. This book has an entire chapter devoted to explaining the how to express the verb "CAN" in Chinese. Regarding Hanyu versus Huayu is the first means Chinese (Spoken) language and the second means discourse. Regarding zhongwen versus huawen, the first means Chinese written language while the second means words of text. Finally I add this: Wàiyǔ (外语) = foreign language


I. Possibility or Guessing : 会/能 ,but 会 is more stress and has more possibility to happen 他能来。 他回来的。 II. Know how to 会 = has a skill / know how to 能 (capable) /可以 (can) = can do Sth. / His or her ability can reach to the standard level of given “condition”. - 他会/能说汉语。 I can speak english. - 我会游泳。 I have skill to swim - 他能/可以用英文写文章了。 He could write an essay in English now. (I use "now" because the sentence has "了" which mean before he couldn't use his english skill to write an essay but now he could) - 我一个小时能/可以打一万字。I can type ten thoundsand word in an hour (this sentence cannot use 会) III. In case of we successfully of learning sth. in first time use 会/能 but 会 is more common. 她会/能开车了。I can drive a car now. IV. In sentences which have a "condition" or asked for Permission use 能/可以 cannot use 会 • 这里可以抽烟吗? Does smoking allow here? (asked for permission) • 对不起,这里不能“抽烟”。 sorry, not allowed to smoking here (not permission) • 今天你能不能跟我一起去? you can't go with me today, don't you? • 对不起,今天“我有事”,不能跟你一起去。sorry, (I) have a matter today, so (I) can't go with you V. Use 会 as in a verb to show ability 他会中文。 He can speak Chinese. 他不会中文。 I can't speak Chinese 她会电脑。 She able to use computer Note. in my experience My chinese friend used to asked me 你在宿舍里做饭吗?Do you cooking in dorm? and i want to answer him "i don't know how to cook." so I answered him 我不能做饭。 Then he asked me back 为什么?老师不让座? And I knew later that the correct is “我不会做饭。” because I used 能 instead 会,so my friend thought i cannot cooking because it's not allowed cooking in dorm. see, (不)能+condition

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here .
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket Chinese trial here .