Why is 还 taught as huán and not hái?

This is just a question out of curiosity but what’s the logic behind picking the default meaning+pronunciation for 还 as huán - return and not hái - still or also?

Obviously both are used/correct, but hái shows up in the HSK lists as “still” very early, and turns up in 还是 (háishì) as well, both before huán. In the Wiktionary frequency list hái shows up at #37 while huán doesn’t show up until #7117 (with háishì at #309). Also very anecdotally I use hái quite regularly when speaking, but have never really needed huán yet in an actual conversation … I guess I don’t return things often, while asking an “or” question is extremely common.

So yeah - any reason to go with (what seems to be) the lesser used version as default?


This is one I’ve had in the back of my mind for a bit. We’ve also received similar feedback once or twice before.

The decision to use huán at the time we added it (nearly two years ago?) came from the fact that if one adds up all vocabulary words that use the character, it is the more common meaning/pronunciation. We see this even within the HSK itself, where 6/8 of the vocabulary words are the huán variant.

  • 还是 hai2shi4 (HSK-1)
  • 还有 hai2you3 (HSK-1)
  • 偿还 chang2huan2 (HSK-7)
  • 返还 fan3huan2 (HSK-7)
  • 归还 gui1huan2 (HSK-7)
  • 还款 huan2kuan3 (HSK-7)
  • 还原 huan2yuan2 (HSK-7)
  • 讨价还价 tao3jia4huan2jia4 (HSK-7)

However, despite being more vocabulary-frequent, in terms of raw frequency the hai2 variant is far more common. I’ll think about this a bit more, newer learners would indeed benefit from learning the more common variant, even if we all have to learn both at some point. :+1:


Thanks, that makes sense.

Personally as one of those newer learners (HSK ~3 ish) I’d certainly preffer it to be hái because every time I review it I think "hái … wait … no, they want the other one … " even though that’s never what I see in DuChinese etc. But I get the logic that once I finish all the words and get to those higher HSK levels, there are more huán ones.

Differing meanings and/or pronunciations are annoying in any system - there is just no nice way to map 2 things onto 1 character. So good luck with solving that.

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