Using 是-sentences for events, news, or missions
19 April 2016 (later expanded)
noun 是 shì 'is' [ sentence ]
In cases like this, English would require the sentence to be wrapped in a grammatical structure of some kind. For example, the verb in the sentence could be transformed into a gerund using '-ing' (a nominal construction), or the sentence could be converted into a clause of time or manner.
I've since come across several other interesting examples of 是-sentence constructions in Chinese.
One is at an article about the repatriation to China of Taiwanese committing crimes overseas. The first sentence was:
Recently one of the hottest news topics, is [ 45 Taiwanese were repatriated from Kenya to Mainland China ]
In English, the content of the news would need to be expressed as:
Recently one of the hottest news topics is how 45 Taiwanese were repatriated from Kenya to Mainland China (use of 'how' in a clause of manner is slightly colloquial)
Recently one of the hottest news topics is that 45 Taiwanese were repatriated from Kenya to Mainland China (the sentence is converted into a noun clause, 'the fact that')
Recently one of the hottest news topics is the repatriation of 45 Taiwanese from Kenya to Mainland China (the verb is converted into a noun)
Chinese does not need to fuss with the rather awkward mechanics that is forced on English by its need for 'structure'. It is possible to say "the hot news is 45 Taiwanese were repatriated", without converting into nouns or clauses.
Note the punctuation of the Chinese. The topic of the sentence, 'hot news', is isolated from the sentence by a comma.
Several more examples are from the science fiction novel 三体 sāntǐ by Liu Cixin. One sentence runs:
Our task this meeting is [ to discuss action plans, finalise one to three most viable (plans), and submit (them) to headquarters ]
This again equates a noun (任务 rènwu 'mission') to a clause or sentence. Unlike other sentences we've seen, however, the content of the sentence is not past events or actions, but future actions. This affects how the clause/sentence is translated into English. Normally it will be translated using the to infinitive.
Our task this meeting is to discuss action plans, finalise one to three most viable plans, and submit them to headquarters.
(For discussion of 上报 shàngbào, see Valency of 上报.)
Other possibilities are clumsier and less likely:
Our task this meeting is that we should discuss action plans, finalise one to three most viable plans, and submit them to headquarters.
Note again the use of a comma after 任务 rènwu 'task, mission'.
Another example is:
The only way to achieve our goal is [ to fully occupy and control the 'Judgment Day' ] ; of this the most difficult is [ to prevent the enemy from deleting three-body information during the attack operations ].
This sentence contains two examples. The first equates 途径 tújīng 'way' to the clause/sentence 全面占领和控制‘审判日’号 quánmiàn zhànlǐng hé kòngzhì ‘shěnpàn rì’ hào 'to fully occupy and control the "Judgment Day"'.
The second omits the noun. The expression 最困难的 zuì kùnnán de 'the most difficult' can be understood as something like 最困难的事情 zuì kùnnán de shìqing 'the most difficult thing'. This is equated to the clause/sentence 在攻击行动中避免敌人删除三体信息 zài gōngjí xíngdòng zhōng bìmiǎn dírén shānchú sāntǐ xìnxī 'to prevent the enemy from deleting three-body information during the attack operations'. As in the previous example, the events are in the future, not the past.
The best way to translate these into English is again to use the to infinitive, as above. Other possibilities include nominalisations and gerunds:
'The only way to achieve our goal is [ full occupation and control of the 'Judgment Day' ] ; of this the most difficult is [ preventing the enemy from deleting three-body information during the attack operations ].'
Another sentence is:
If the distance to the target is unclear, the final outcome of the entire fleet is [ to be plunged into the abyss of the universe ]
This again is a future prediction, and the normal way to render it in English is to use the to infinitive.
What these cases all suggest is the difficulties that Chinese speakers might have in dealing with English. Where Chinese can use a simple 是-sentence, with the object of the sentence a straightforward sentence, English requires the use of appropriate grammatical structures, which vary with the style, time setting, etc.
Examples at earlier posts were:
His most recent "appearance" is believed to be [ on the morning of the 14th (he) crossed the border from France back to Belgium ]
The earliest incident in my memory was [ I carried our family's only thermos to go to the public canteen to fetch boiling water ]