Classes

This character contains three of our tree building blocks all squished together. It’s structure is actually very similar to the character 焱 (yan2), which means “flame”. Like western culture, the forest is sometimes associated with darkness in Chinese, so we can find this compound in phrases that mean things like “gloomy”, “eerie”, and “dark”.


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This compound fills a special role in Chinese grammar; it indicates when something is plural. For example, in the phrase 我們 (wo3 men), 我 means “I” and 們 makes the phrase plural, so we get a definition of “we”. Compounds like this will quickly become your friend because they allow you to make many phrases without the need to memorize complex rules like we have in English! The simplified form of the character is 们.


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焚 This compound contains the building block characters 木 (tree) and 火 (fire). When we put two trees together, we get a forest or “woods” (林). Wood is a great fuel to use for fires, so it’s easy to remember that a forest (林) on fire (火) is burning (焚).


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One 火 character all by itself means “fire”. Two stacked together looks like this: 炎, and means “burning hot”. With three 火 characters we go from “very hot” to “on fire”! You will see 焱 again in some phrases that translate to words like “blaze”, “raging flame”, “fireworks” etc. Don’t forget that even though the characters we just looked at all use the same building block, their pronunciations are completely different! 焱 is pronounced like this: yan4.


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This compound character is one of the easier Chinese characters to read, write, and generally remember! First, we have the very simple character for “sun”, which looks like a window: 日. Then, we add a straight horizontal stroke underneath it. And you thought Chinese was difficult! 旦 represents the sun coming up over the horizon at sunrise. It actually makes a lot of sense, this compound! You’ll see it again in some phrases where it relates to a potential future or keeps its basic literal translation.


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This compound uses two copies of the same building block to add emphasis. By itself, 火 means “fire”. When we stack two fires together, it starts getting really hot! You can see the compound 炎 used in the field of medicine as well; in that context it means “inflammation”. By the way, using multiple copies of a building block as components in a compound character is something you’ll certainly see again! There are many compounds with a similar structure to this one.


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