Some Similar Mandarin Words

This year I’m trying to start learning Mandarin Chinese. Here are some confusingly similar words I’ve come across.

认识 and 知道

The difference is between knowing a person, 认识 (rènshí) and knowing a fact, 知道 (zhīdào).

你认识她妈? 你知道我很酷吗?
nǐ rènshí tā mā nǐ zhīdào wǒ hěn kù mā
Do you know her? Do you know I'm cool?

正在 and 现在

Both roughly mean “now” but 正在 (zhèngzài) means currently or in general and 现在 (xiànzài) means literally right at this moment.

我正在学习中文 我现在吃饭
wǒ zhèngzài xuéxí zhōngwén wǒ xiànzài chīfàn
I'm learning Chinese. I'm eating (now).

可以 and 可能

可以 (kěyǐ) is used when you’re willing and able to do something. 可能 (kěnéng) is if there’s a possibility of something happening.

我今晚可以看电影 我可能会去看电影
wǒ jīnwǎn kěyǐ kàn diànyǐng wǒ kěnéng huì qù kàn diànyǐng
I can see a movie tonight. I might go see a movie.

Thanks to Elva for lending her Mandarin expertise.

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