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I have a group of friends who regularly meet to play soccer, someone asked on WeChat:

今晚怎么意思

The reply given was the time that we start "7" (meaning 7pm).

I may be missing something very simple here, but I have never heard someone just ask 怎么意思.

So what is the correct way to translate this into English?

Based on the reply, I don't see how this means "what time are we starting tonight" or "what time are we meeting tonight" - which is the kind of question I would expect if it was in English.

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3  
never heard that sentence before. it's may be a typo or a slang in small groups –  LiuYan 刘研 Dec 20 '13 at 9:56
    
I am certainly sure that your friend make the mistake! Your friend may ask for your plan. To translate a wrong sentence is not the right way. So for your first question , I guess they are asking 今晚怎么样(How about tonight?). For question two: I may translate to 今晚几点开始? or 今晚几点见面? –  einverne Dec 23 '13 at 4:50
    
@LiuYan刘研: English tip for you if you're interested: We never say "a slang", just "slang". Kind of like "information". (-: –  hippietrail Feb 14 at 9:02
1  
@hippietrail, thanks for your useful tip ^_^ –  LiuYan 刘研 Feb 14 at 12:40

7 Answers 7

it means what your plan is for tonight? how will you spend tonight

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This is more commonly used in Northern dialects. 今晚怎么意思=今晚怎么个意思=(litterally) How would you make tonight meaningful?=Where shall we hang out tonight?

This may have relation with 名词使动用法(noun being used as a donative verb) of classical Chinese. Since 意思=significance, here it means "to render significance".


这种用法在北方方言中更常见。今晚怎么意思=今晚怎么个意思=(字面上)今晚要怎么使它有意思=今晚上哪儿去high。

这可能与古代汉语中的名词使动用法有关。意思=使...变得有意思

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我上海的,我自己一般不會說「怎麼意思」的,最多說「哪能」。 –  hrzhu Dec 21 '13 at 2:52

It might be a little off the topic, but you remind me of a popular joke online:

阿呆给领导送红包时,两人的对话颇有意思。领导:“你这是什么意思?”阿呆:“没有意思,意思意思。”领导:“你这就不够意思了。”阿呆:“小意思,小意思。”领导:“你这人真有意思。”阿呆:“其实也没有别的意思。”领导:“那我就不好意思了。”阿呆:“是我不好意思。”

Your friend's expression is similar which is highly irregular and non-standard. Coincidentally, my friend and I also use "怎么个意思" in asking for advice and comments on recreational plans, attitudes and even just for greeting.

Usually the meaning of this kind of expression is gradually formed during daily usage among a small group of close friends and it might be difficult for outsiders to get to know the meaning at first glance.

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I don't understand what the '今晚怎么意思' means, even I'm Chinese. I think it should be '今晚怎么样?'. It means 'How about tonight?', then they said '7 pm'.

Hope helpful.

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As a native speaker, I don't think it has the meaning of asking for time.

And agree with the translation of "any plans tonight".

BUT I have to say this sentence is not very standard, even not close to life chatting. And "意思" has so many many many meanings in Chinese. So pay attention.

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I would read 意思 here as "wish; desire" (source: ABC). So perhaps something like: "what are your intentions for tonight" might be a somewhat literal (albeit overly formal) translation.

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I think your friend was asking how to arrange the evening, not literally ask the time to meet. 「今晚怎麼意思?」 means “Any plans tonight?" in English.

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