Questions concerned comprehension and understanding the finer aspects of individual words or phrases, with or without a context in which they are expressed.

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16
votes
2answers
357 views

Why use 非 and 亚 for continent names?

Why was 非 chosen for 非洲 (Africa) and 亚 chosen for 亚洲 (Asia)? I can't find a particular reason to use these characters.
14
votes
9answers
2k views

How offensive is 他妈的?

How offensive is the expression 他妈的? What is an English expression with a similar degree of offensiveness? In what situations is this expression appropriate / not appropriate?
13
votes
2answers
4k views

What is the exact meaning of 吃豆腐, and where does the expression come from?

I'm not talking about eating tofu, but the expression that means something more like taking advantage of someone. What exactly does 吃豆腐 mean, and where does this expression come from?
12
votes
4answers
977 views

Are 明白 and 懂 synonymous?

Are 明白 and 懂 synonymous? If not, could anyone please elaborate on the difference along with some examples of usage?
10
votes
7answers
395 views

Sheep or goat? 一只羊跑过来

In the sentence: 一只羊跑过来 Would a Chinese person typically assume this is a goat or a sheep?
10
votes
6answers
2k views

What's the meaning of 缘分 in English?

I asked a similar question on English Language & Usage site, but no one seems to come up with a good answer for me. I have decided to give our Chinese site a try. Bonus: how will you describe the ...
9
votes
7answers
8k views

Special meanings applied to numbers 0 - 10

From what I understand: 4 or 四 means death 8 is similar to 发 as in 发财 9 is somehow related to the emporer or is the emporer's number Can someone please provide the meanings (if they exist) for ...
9
votes
4answers
212 views

Difference between 对 and 双

For a pair of rabbits there is: 一对兔 yī duì tù And for a pair of shoes there is: 一双鞋 yī shuāng xié And for twins there is: 双胞胎 shuāngbāotāi How can I be sure when to use 对 and when to ...
9
votes
3answers
409 views

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常?

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常? I hear them a lot in conversational Chinese, but I can't pick out the difference in meaning. The dictionaries I've checked don't seem to agree on their ...
8
votes
4answers
439 views

What does the expression “孤男寡女” mean?

What does the expression "孤男寡女" (gū nán guǎ nǚ) mean, exactly? Does it have inherently negative connotations? As an aside, why does Google translate it as "Needing"?
8
votes
2answers
313 views

Is there a literal meaning of 对不起?

对不起 is one of the first phrases any student learns. We learn it as a set phrase, and don't question why it has this meaning. But we also learn the phrases; 听得懂 - "hear and understand" 听不懂 - ...
8
votes
5answers
325 views

What is the meaning of 真是的

What is a meaning of 真是的. I heard for many times in context something like 你真是的! And yet I have doubts about proper meaning of this expression.
8
votes
2answers
204 views

Specifics of the idiom “四海一家”

There are several sayings and idioms similar to 四海一家 which reference "四海". Does the 四海 actually refer to 4 specific oceans such as the Indian, Pacific etc. or is it more of a metaphor for all of the ...
8
votes
2answers
169 views

Does “坊” also mean “square”, “plaza”, “piazza” like “广场”?

Where I am in Kunming there is a square that seems to go by two names: 金碧广场, Jīn bì guǎngchǎng, "Golden Square" 金马碧鸡坊, Jīnmǎ bì jī fang, "Golden Horse and Green Rooster Square" When I look ...
8
votes
2answers
112 views

What is the difference between 有名,著名 and 闻名?

We know 名 means name or famous, what is the subtle difference between 有名,著名 and 闻名? Thanks!
8
votes
1answer
169 views

Correct usage for 跟。。。过不去

This question has two parts: What's the precise meaning of this expression? What is the correct usage? Question (1) I understand it to mean that the person referred to (eg, 跟她过不去) is uncomfortable ...
7
votes
6answers
340 views

How gender specific in writing is the character 他

A couple of years ago I wrote this comment below an answer: On mainland China 他 is used for both male and female. I've only seen 她 used as a stylistic thing for advertising and some old formal ...
7
votes
7answers
800 views

Why do native speakers often say a character has “no meaning”?

Many times I will know all the characters in a name but one & I'll ask what that one character means. 9 times out of 10 the response is, "That character has no meaning". While it might be true ...
7
votes
7answers
340 views

Two terms for “According to” - What are the differences between 根据 and 按照?

根据 and 按照 can both function as a preposition that can be translated as according to. I imagine that the translation does not capture the individual character of each term. What nuances do the two ...
7
votes
2answers
152 views

他在工厂住了半年/living in factories

This was an example sentence in Practical Chinese Reader 31. Do people actually live in factories, or is there some cultural context I'm missing? In previous chapters, people are constantly visiting ...
7
votes
2answers
254 views

Why does 有机 as in 有机食品 mean organic?

有 and 机 are some of the first characters we learn in Chinese, but only recently did I find out that they mean "organic" when put together. Can anyone explain why this is?
7
votes
2answers
195 views

What is the difference between these two words 叫做 and 叫作?

What is the difference between these two words 叫做 and 叫作? The dictionary definition is quite similar and when I use this term in conversation I am unaware of which character combination I am using.
7
votes
1answer
132 views

What is the difference between 傻瓜 and 笨蛋?

May sound like a silly question, but is there a difference between 傻瓜 and 笨蛋?
7
votes
1answer
157 views

How to say the term “招” and “式” in English?

It's used as a classifier, like this: "亢龙有悔"是"降龙十八掌"中的*一招*. and *一招一式*他都记得清清楚楚. So how to say it in English?
6
votes
7answers
1k views

What does 非也 mean?

What does 非也 mean? I heard it used here: Is this XXX? 非也! It's YYY! Does it mean "Oh my god!" or something? Thank you very much!
6
votes
6answers
618 views

Can 知道 be used in the sense of “to know someone”?

While watching a video with Chinese subtitles on a Chinese website, I came across this dialogue: Approximate English gloss (leaving out unnecessary details): A: You're XXX, right? B: So you ...
6
votes
3answers
347 views

How to translate “很不起眼儿” in English

What's the best (传神) translation of "很不起眼儿" in English? 例句: 不认识他的人觉得他很不起眼儿,认识他的人觉得他很优秀。 辨析: A more formal term that related to "很不起眼儿" is "其貌不扬", but "其貌不扬" will normally be "很不起眼儿", yet ...
6
votes
2answers
211 views

中东 - “Middle East” or “Eastern China”?

The dictionary lists both Middle East and Eastern China for 中东. Is one of these meanings more common? What would be a native speaker's first impression of the word? Does the meaning vary from ...
6
votes
2answers
116 views

How did 舆论 come to represent Public Opinion?

How did the word 舆论 come to represent the concept of Public Opinion? I know the meanings of the individual characters but I just don't quite see how the combination of these two meanings leads to the ...
6
votes
2answers
161 views

What is the difference between 依然 and 仍然?

What is the difference between 依然 and 仍然?
6
votes
3answers
318 views

What's the main difference between 为 and 是?

It seems like both 为 and 是 mean "to be". In which cases is one used but not the other? Is it something like the difference between "estar" and "ser" in Spanish and Portuguese? (In the sense that one ...
5
votes
6answers
194 views

What does 出来 mean in this sentence: 真看不出来你是外国人?

What does 出来 mean in this sentence: 真看不出来你是外国人? Doesn't 出来 mean "come out of ..."?
5
votes
4answers
367 views

Differences between 饭,菜, 食 and 餐

I was always wondering, what is the difference between 饭,菜, 食 and 餐 . Basically all mean food. But I know those are sometimes used in a diffetent curcimstances. What is then the most common word for ...
5
votes
6answers
211 views

How can I interpret 多 in this sentence?

It must be pretty easy, but what does 多 mean here? 我才来了三个多月
5
votes
6answers
636 views

犬子: who's the dog?

犬子 (literally, dog + son) is an archaic, self-depreciatory term to refer to your son (occasionally it's used to insult other people's sons). This answer raises a question though; who is the dog ...
5
votes
2answers
188 views

Why is 土著人 used for Aboriginal people in Australia?

In Australia it is quite common to talk about Aboriginal people as they feature quite often when talking about sports, Olympics or politics. The word that is used to describe Aboriginal people by ...
5
votes
9answers
656 views

Is 我很对不起你 a unique sentence structure?

I'd never seen or heard this before until I recently watched a TV series and had to ask my wife to explain. My initial guess was that it meant "I feel sorry for you" when in fact it means something ...
5
votes
4answers
219 views

太: Meaning in 灰太狼

灰太狼 灰太狼 (A character in a TV show) is translated in English as "Grey Wolf". What has happened to the 太, wouldn't 灰狼 be enough to mean "Grey Wolf"?
5
votes
4answers
764 views

Why does the word 萌 mean “cute”?

A friend of mine said in a photo of me, my eyes looked very 萌(meng2). 你的眼睛很萌 My dictionary defines 萌 as; 萌 méng (动) sprout; bud; germinate But apparently in this context it means ...
5
votes
2answers
254 views

What does 餅乾 mean in Taiwan?

I'm unfamiliar with the variety of Mandarin spoken in Taiwan, so I was surprised to see a chilli-snack 香脆椒 referred to as 餅乾: http://mall.tw100years.com/goods.php?id=9 ...
5
votes
2answers
200 views

What is the difference between 人民 and 民族?

What is the difference between 人民 and 民族, for example in 中华人民 vs. 中华民族?
5
votes
2answers
230 views

Pattern in the Chinese numbers 1 to 9

I know a lot of Chinese characters are either a symbol of something or a combination of symbols in the space of one character, so what's the origin of the symbol for numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9? since ...
5
votes
2answers
399 views

Who exactly is a 干妈

This dictionary translates 干妈 as "Godmother", and my pocket dictionary also gives "nominal mother". In English, "Godmother" and "Godfather" are very specific titles - Your Godparents are the people ...
5
votes
2answers
163 views

Usage and meaning of “占我的便宜”

My understanding of 占我的便宜 means something similar to 吃豆腐 and I have never heard it used outside of taking sexual advantage. Can this be used in other contexts? Google translate suggests it means "take ...
5
votes
1answer
170 views

Meanings behind “吹牛” and “拍马屁”

I would like to find out more about the two sayings "吹牛" and "拍马屁". How these sayings come about and get their current meanings? 吹牛 chuīniú meaning to brag 拍马屁 pāimǎpì meaning to excessively ...
5
votes
3answers
386 views

Why does 拉倒 mean “forget about it”?

拉倒 is a word that can mean "forget about it". For example: 鲁迅 《华盖集续编·马上支日记》:“现在这书既然借不到,只好拉倒了。” This seems strange though, because 拉倒 literally means "to pull over". What is the etymology of this ...
4
votes
5answers
439 views

When to use 想 versus 喜欢?

Could someone please give we a hint when to use either of those?! My take is that 想 is used for actions and 喜欢 for things!? Am I right?
4
votes
6answers
302 views

Using 老头 / 老头子 when speaking to others

I'm trying to get some clarification on whether or not it is impolite to use 老头 / 老头子 when speaking outside a group of friends when referring to a third party. From my understanding 老头 is quite ...
4
votes
4answers
240 views

What is the meaning of 相声?

Today I read a blog post talking about a Canadian guy called Mark Rowswell (aka 大山) that appears on Chinese TV shows and who is able to do 相声. This 相声 is referred to as "the art of language". What ...
4
votes
5answers
252 views

What is the difference between 投诉 and 抱怨?

is there a difference between 投诉 and 抱怨? All I know is that they both mean "complain".