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Whenever we start talking about population, we begin to think about the resources needed to sustain it, especially how much food is required and where it will come from. This phrase combines the building blocks 人 (person) and 口 (mouth), which represents the way we think about population as mouths to feed.


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Big (大) + Person (人) = Adult (大人) The modern meaning of ‘big–size person’ is adult.


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This phrase combines the compound 本 (origin, foundation) with the building block 日 (sun). What is a day? It’s really just a cycle of the sun, right? This phrase suggests that the foundation of a day is the sun, and I have to agree. The moment the sun rises is when 本日 really begins.


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Confused? Here is a side-by-side comparison so you can spot the difference clearly. ☺ The phrase 日本 means 'Japan' while the phrase 本日 means 'today'.


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In English, we sometimes call Japan the “land of the rising sun”. The Chinese phrase you see here is the common name for Japan, and is actually very similar to the English phrase. The first character in this phrase is the building block 日 (sun), and the second is the compound 本 (foundation, origin). These two characters represent the sun’s origin, which is where it rises in the east. What country lies to the east of China? Why, Japan, of course!


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In English, if we want to create a proper noun that indicates someone’s nationality, we need to add a suffix like -ese or -an. For example: person from America = American. In Chinese, it’s much easier to create these nationalistic nouns. All we need to do is add the building block 人 (person). This phrase means “a Japanese person”, and contains the building block 日 (sun; day) and the compound 本 (foundation, origin), which creates the phrase 日本 (Japan). Then, we add the building block 人 (person) on the end.


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