Ancient/Modern & Word Type

Hey everyone,

I'm relatively new to learning Chinese but now I'm starting to take it more seriously. I've been using Pleco for a while now, and I think it's a great resource.

A couple of questions:

1. Does Pleco have a way of distinguishing between the 'modern' and 'ancient' meanings of various characters?

For example, the Android PLC entry for the character 易 has two lists of three, separated by a grey horizontal line:

1. easy
2. amiable
3. (Formal) despise


1. change
2. exchange
3. a surname

A Chinese friend of mine told me that in modern Chinese 易 primarily means easy, whilst in ancient Chinese 易 can also mean change.

Is this what the horizontal line means in the dictionary entry? Does Pleco have a way of distinguishing between these? Is this actually an important issue? I'm still new at this, and I'd like to develop good habits now.

2. Can Pleco distinguish between noun, verb, adjective... etc.?

I know this can be a slightly thorny issue, since many characters can act as nouns, adjectives, verbs and more, depending on context, but does Pleco have any attempt at this? I saw some pictures which suggested it does, and also some other forum posts, but I can't find it.

Is this a feature found in add-on dictionaries, or a setting I just can't find?

Thanks in advance!


Staff member
1) We don't flag that stuff rigorously in PLC at the moment, so the best bet there would probably be to download another dictionary with fewer / more carefully chosen definitions (like Tuttle).

That being said, frankly single-character definitions are a pretty lousy tool for learning Chinese in general; the 'change' sense of 易 still appears in lots of modern words, like 变易, so even if a Chinese speaker may associate 易 with 'easy' more than 'change' in their mind, when actually trying to understand Chinese that 'change' meaning still comes up a lot. (and the same is true for lots and lots of other archaic character meanings)

Most sources recommend a word-driven rather than a character-driven approach to Chinese study to avoid pitfalls like this; I know it's tempting to try to master Chinese through characters since they're so interesting + easy-to-quantify, but to actually speak Chinese it's much more useful to master common words (like those in the HSK lists) and then fill in common characters along the way to learn how to read and write those words.

2) The beta version of PLC at does that, as do most of our add-on C-E dictionaries.