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is 趁早 the same as saying as soon as possible in English?

The dictionary defines 趁早 as "as soon as possible", but can I use it by itself in a sentence?

For example , if someone asks me "你什么时候想去吃饭?" Can I just respond by saying

"趁早". Or do I have to use an entire sentence like ”我趁早想去."

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Just a "趁早" sounds OK but a little unnatural to me. And "我趁早想去" is not good because 趁早 here modifies 想 but not 去 (and you don't mean that), thus you'd better say "我想趁早去". –  Stan Oct 13 '13 at 13:07
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我想趁早去 doesn't mean 'I want to go as soon as possible', but 'I want to go as early as possible'. The difference is, 'soon' is compared to 'now', while 'early' is compared to some time mark in the conversation context, such as 'earlier than the time we usually go to eat', or 'earlier than the rush hour' or 'early enough so we can catch the movie after'. –  NS.X. Oct 13 '13 at 19:49
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They are different. ASAP means "尽早", "趁早" means "to catch the tide". –  shuangwhywhy Oct 14 '13 at 7:13

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

No, 趁早 does not exactly mean ASAP (as soon as possible).

means to take the opportunity
means early
So, 趁早 means take the opportunity while it is still early or at the earliest.


Just to clarify further:

趁早 carries an emphasis on the window of opportunity. There is a deadline when such opportunity will be lost. The urgency of the matter is conditional on the window of opportunity. That is, it can be a very urgent matter that needs to be handled immediately, OR it can be a non-urgent matter that you can take your time as long as the opportunity still exist.


Some examples:

如果你觉得这份工作不适合你,想要退出,要趁早让我知道。
If you think that this job is not suitable for you and want to quit, let me know at the earliest.

看起来又要下雨了,你还是趁早把晾好的衣服给收起来吧。
Looks like it is going to rain again soon, better keep all the laundry that you have just hanged out to dry while it is still early.

A better translation for ASAP would be 尽快.

if someone asks me "你什么时候想去吃饭?

You can say "我想尽快去吃" to mean you would like to have your meal ASAP or "现在" to have your meal now if you are really in a rush.

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Actually, I can rephrase both English translations with as soon as possible here. Don't get me wrong; I do recognize there is a difference between the two terms. I will need to have a good think about this myself. Maybe I can come up with a better example for you. –  deutschZuid Oct 13 '13 at 22:01
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The 趁早 in your two examples can both be replaced with 尽快 and actually have more or less the same meaning in English. What about this example: 我恳求他们趁早克制一下对土著人的偏见. If you replace 趁早 with 尽快 here, it still makes sense, but it implies that there is a clear cutoff point/deadline where the prejudice needs to be stopped (or something disastrous will occur), whereas 趁早 (at the earliest opportunity) implies a continuous degradation of the status quo if the prejudice is to continue. The earlier it is addressed, the better the outcome. –  deutschZuid Oct 13 '13 at 22:14
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@deutschZuid I think the difference between 趁早 and 尽快 is actually the other way around, due to other ways of using 趁 with a "deadline". However the difference is still subtle and tangential to the question. –  congusbongus Oct 13 '13 at 23:45
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趁早 has a connotation that if something is not done soon, something bad will happen. For example of going to restaurant, 趁早 usually has the connotation that there'll be a long queue if we get there late –  user58955 Oct 14 '13 at 7:12
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In most cases, 趁早 and 尽快 can be interchangeable, while there are a few cases where they can not. For example: 出名要趁早,挣钱要尽快。In this sentence 趁早 and 尽快 means differently. 出名要趁早 means if you want to become a celebrity, you'd better make it happen when you are still young. A lot of the benefit of being a celebrity will be gone if you become a celebrity at an old age. 挣钱要尽快 means if you want to make a good fortune, start going towards that goal as quick as you can, don't delay, don't procrastinate. –  孤影萍踪 Oct 18 '13 at 18:42

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