What are the differences between “快樂” and “高興”?

Traditional: 快樂, 高興 Simplified: 快乐, 高兴

First of all, let’s look at their definition in the dictionary:
1. 快樂 kuàilè
.Collins Mandarin Chinese Dictionary: happy
.cdict.net: happy, merry
2. 高興 gāoxìng
.Collins Mandarin Chinese Dictionary: happy; enjoy
.cdict.net: happy, glad, willing (to do sth), in a cheerful mood

And Google translation:
快樂: happy, joyful, cheerful
高興: happy, glad, joy, be willing to, glee, in a cheerful mood

We can definitely see that they have A LOT in common, so it is not surprising that learners would find these two words confusing and not sure how to use them.

Here I will list out some easy-to-understand explanation to help you understand their usage:

  • Think about the situation or feeling you are describing, is it a long-lasting status or a temporary feeling? In other words, a fact or a mood?
  • Is it used for connecting a sentence?
  • Is it a frequently used phrase that people are already used to express it using one of the two words? That is to say, does it have collocations?

Let me give you some examples:

1. You can definitely say: “我很快樂” or “我很高興”, by the fact that they’re both adjectives.

But you CAN’T really say “王子和公主過著高興的生活” ;
instead, you have to day “王子和公主過著快樂的生活”
The prince and princess live happily.

In this case, 生活(life) is a long-term status, so you have to use 快樂, which usually used for such situations.

2. The first-ever sentence you probably have learned when you first learned Chinese:

“很高興認識你”
Nice to meet you.

I can bet you’ve never heard anyone said “很快樂認識你”

EXACTLY, you can only connect a sentence with 高興

Not so sure? Another example here: 我很高興地告訴他這個好消息 (I am very happy to tell him this good news.)

3. Last one, we also have to note that there are collocations, such as:

生日快樂
Happy Birthday
新年快樂
Happy New Year
聖誕節快樂
Merry Christmas

By the way, if you’re looking for different words for substitution, 高興 can be replaced by 開心 in most cases!

I hope you enjoy this explanation for synonyms in Mandarin Chinese, stay tuned to Inspire Mandarin, and here I will deliver you more useful content!

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