Today kicks off a new feature for us at MJChinese – a section of our site devoted to providing clarification on vocabulary use in Chinese, called “Nasty nuances!”
This feature will present bite-sized blog posts designed to demonstrate the different features, functions and subtle intricacies of words which translate similarly from Chinese -> English.
Our first stop is differentiating between 贷款 (dai4kuan3 – to get a loan) and 借债 (jie4zhai4 – to borrow money).
First, a great quote relating to all things monetary:
“Borrow money from a pessimist – they don’t expect it back”—Janeane Garofalo
OK, now onto the serious stuff. This time, our respective English translations “to get a loan” and “to borrow money”(fortunately) do contain some clues as to when each should be used.
“To get a loan” does sound rather official, and sure enough, we use 贷款 when we trudge to our local bank branch or credit institution for a loan.
我同学要向银行贷款. (My classmate had to ask the bank for a loan)
In English, “to borrow money” can be used in both informal and formal contexts. You can borrow money from a friend, a bank or a loanshark. In Chinese, 借债 is usually employed in an informal sense, when you borrow money from a friend or close acquaintance. On a more interesting note, 借债 can also be used for a loan from seedy underword figures, such as loansharks!
For instance, 明天早上我会向他借债 (Tomorrow, I will borrow some money from him)
It’s important to note that when constructing sentences when you are approaching somebody to request something, 向 (xiang4) is used. This is a preposition which means “toward”. If we deconstruct the use of 向 in the above sentence by interpreting the example sentence literally, we get:
Tomorrow morning I will toward him to borrow money.
This does make some sense! After all we need to approach the creditor(whether they be friend, financial institution or a more unscrupulous individual) in order to obtain a loan, so think of 向 in that sense, thereby making our literal translation somewhat more refined:
Tomorrow morning I will approach him to borrow money.
As such, remember that the preposition must follow the basic Chinese grammar structure, whereby 向 comes before the “target” of the request, which is then followed by the verb.
Michael and Jing