Yìdiǎn is used in many ways, and just like “a little bit” in English it’s hard to figure out when you can use it and what it means. I’ve come across three uses so far, and I’ll update this page when I find others.
I’m going to look at these 3 uses:
- verb + yìdiǎn = “verbing a bit more”
- yǒu yìdiǎn + adjective = “only kind of adjective” (negative connotation)
- adjective + yìdiǎn = “adjective to the extreme” (in comparison)
I’m going to use the word “nèn”, which means “tender” as I think it makes the examples more clear than using “big” or something else.
1) verb + yìdiǎn (modifies the verb)
This one is easy: it’s modifying the verb to say that the action is happening more intensely.
For instance, “Wǒ chī yìdiǎn nèn niú ròu” means “I am eating a bit more tender beef”.
I (subject) am eating (verb) a bit more (modifier for the verb, aka adverb) tender (adjective modifying the object) beef (object).
Notice here that we’re not modifying the adjective at all, and the beef in this case is simply “tender”.
I like to think about it as if you had squished the words together into a compound word. In that case it’d be: “I am more-eating tender beef”
2) yǒu yìdiǎn + adjective (modifies the adjective)
This one is moderately hard. I think of this as “only kind of adjective”. It carries a negative tone, almost implying that the adjective is less than you’d expect. For instance, we could say:
“Wǒ chī de niú ròu yǒu yìdiǎn nèn”, which would mean “I am eating somewhat tender beef”. The “yìdiǎn” in this case is “weakening” the adjective instead of “joining forces” with it, as I think of the third case. The “little bit” is modifying the adjective “tender”. Again, this has a negative connotation – if you said this to a friend, they might ask you if you cooked the beef too long, or want another piece, etc.
I (subject) am eating (verb) somewhat (adjective modifying the next adjective, thus indirectly modifying the object) tender (adjective modifying the object) beef (object).
As a compound word: “I am eating not-very-tender beef”.
But really, if you’re living in California in 2016, you’re likely going to say instead: “I eat kinda tender beef”.
3) adjective + yìdiǎn (modifies the noun)
This one is the hardest. I think of this as going “somewhat extreme” with the adjective. It always implies a comparison to another noun, even if the other noun is not explicitly included.
For instance, we could say “wǒ de niú ròu (bǐ nǐ de niú ròu) nèn yìdiǎn” which means “My beef (compared to your beef) is more tender”.
My beef (subject) compared to your beef (explicit or implicit comparison) is more (adjective modifying how tender the beef is by “joining forces” with the next adjective) tender (adjective modifying the object)
Maybe you’re comparing against your normal beef, or perhaps the tenderness of the beef people were expecting you to eat. You could also perhaps translate as: “I am eating beef that is more tender than usual” or “I am eating beef that is more tender than expected”.
As a compound word, it’s: “I am eating more-tender beef”.
Again, if you live in CA you might say: “I eat hella tender beef”.
|#||word||what’s modified||slang meaning||shorthand example|
|1||verb + yìdiǎn||verb||verb-ing a bit more||I am more-eating tender beef|
|2||yǒu yìdiǎn + adjective||adjective||kinda adjective (negative connotation)||I am eating not-very-tender beef|
|3||adjective + yìdiǎn||noun||adjective to the extreme (comparison)||I am eating more-tender beef|
Hopefully this helps! Also note that the “yì” in “yǒu yìdiǎn” might not be there – apparently many speakers leave it out. Please also let me know if there are any issues with the post.