I have: 哪里呀,我也是没办法,摸着石头过河罢了!

Is 摸着石头过河 'tapping in the dark'?

No, I don't know how, I'm still tapping in the dark.


2 Answers 2


I don't know about the phrase "tapping in the dark" because my limited English.

But 摸着石头过河 basically means try to do something via trials and errors. So my translation would be:

No, I have no idea, I'm still learning while doing it/I'm just trying to do what I can.

  • 1
    'tapping in the dark' means moving forward like a blind man, you can't see the way ahead, you have to feel your way by tapping your feet forward. Used figuratively, it means just what you said 'via trial and errors because I don't really know how to do this'
    – Pedroski
    Feb 26, 2015 at 2:16
  • 1
    Then I guess the translationis okey Feb 26, 2015 at 2:23
  • 1
    see online dictionaries,iciba has entry for 摸着石头过河 with 6 sample sentences containing this phrase, also there is a 百科 article about it which is copied by iciba
    – user6065
    Feb 26, 2015 at 12:43
  • Personally, I don't really trust ICIBA when it comes to phrases like this. Many of its samples are aggregated with poor translations created by machines without human proof reading and appropriate references (few of them are from oxford or collins dictionaries but most of then are simple "via the Internet" and there isn't even a link). It may help you get a general idea of a phrase, but far from translating or using it naturally. I normally would look it up in one or more creditable dictionaries and then try to do some research online to find the appropriate expression in the other language. Feb 26, 2015 at 13:28
  • anyhow iciba contains above answer:她感到抚养孩子就像是摸着石头过河。She feels that raising her children has been a matter of trial and error.
    – user6065
    Feb 26, 2015 at 14:37

The literal translation of this idiom is something along the lines of, "feeling stones while crossing a river":

  • 摸 — , to feel or grope.
  • 着 — zhe, a particle denoting an action in progress. When combined with the previous character, you get 摸着, meaning "(currently) feeling".
  • 石头 — shítou, stone(s).
  • 过 — guò, which has a few different meanings but here means "to cross"
  • 河 — , river.

Figuratively, what it means is "to figure things out as you go along", as if you were wading through a river by feeling the stones on the riverbed with your feet.

To give an example, my understanding is that this phrase was often used to describe the economic policy of Dèng Xiǎopíng (邓小平), who was the leader of China after the death of Máo Zédōng (毛泽东). He used it to describe the sort of experimental, gradual reforms that brought China to the economic position it's in today.

Your phrase (哪里呀,我也是没办法,摸着石头过河罢了) is a bit difficult to translate without context, but it seems to mean something like, "There's nothing I can do about it either, I'm just figuring things out as I go along, that's all."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.