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homophonic characters

One of the first words I learned since studying Chinese is 是 (to be). I, however, have recently learned that 是 can also mean "yes," or "this." If I were to use 是 as "yes," how would I do it? Could I do it {in Chinese, you don't say yes to a question, you repeat the question's question word to express "yes"}? How would I explain to someone that I mean to use 是 as "to be?"

Also, 是 has the same pronunciation as 室。In conversation, how would I be able to let the person know that I am saying 室 and not 是?

For learning: Chinese (Mandarin)
Base language: English
Category: Language



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    1. In Classical Chinese (you can wiki it) 是 can mean "this". In modern Chinese, no. So you don't need to worry about it. Only a few idioms that use 是 as "this" are used today, such as "是可忍,孰不可忍" (if this can be tolerated, what cannot? means some behavior or action is intolerable or unacceptable), "比比皆是" (can be found everywhere). Otherwise, if you use 是 as "this" in daily life, it's like you use "thou" whenever you mean "you", it's weird. Those idioms are a little advanced for you for now, I only use them to help explain.

    2. 是 can mean "yes" in answering questions. For example, (1)"Is it raining outside?" "是的". (2)"Did we eat fish this afternoon?" "是的". You can use only "是", people will understand you, but "是的" is natural everywhere.
    You can also use 是 to mean you agree. Actually in this situation 是 is still "yes", it's just another way to use it. You can say it when another person is telling his opinion and you can echo "是" or "是的". For example: Jill:"I think today is quite shiny out there." Jack:"是。" Jill:"It feels comfortable." Jack:"是的。"

    3. 室 has very very different meanings from 是, if you use them right, nobody will misunderstand you. 室 means "room, cell, chamber", such as 寝室(sleeping room = dormitory), 办公室(the room where you work = office).

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