I think it's used like 'so so' in English. Like



Am I correct in this? Are there other ways to use it?

  • searching internet immediately leads to widely respected dictionaries like wiktionary,baidu。baike,chengyu.itlearner.com,zdic。net,some users have raised objections to iciba because of sometimes defective English,which however does not detract from its usefulness in providing plenty of sample sentences
    – user6065
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 1:19

3 Answers 3


马虎 means careless, casual, perfunctory, etc.
So-so mean neither good nor bad, in between.
Example on how to use 马虎:

Question: 为什么你的数学考试打分呢么差? (Why is your score so low on your math test?)
Answer: 我马虎了。 (I was a bit careless.)

马马虎虎 can be shortened to 马虎 in some cases, as shown in the example above.

  • 1
    I don't think 马虎 is short for 马马虎虎. Using repetitive characters is a feature of Chinese to alter the expression in speaking. More than often 马虎 means carelessness and 马马虎虎 means a midly degree of something. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 3:47
  • 小马词典: 马虎 mǎ hu careless; sloppy; negligent; skimpy 马马虎虎 mǎ ma hū hū careless; casual; vague; not so bad; so-so; tolerable; fair iciba has many sample sentences for both
    – user6065
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 5:38
  • 1
    I am a native speaker so I believe I should be able to give a reasonable judge: 马马虎虎 -> not so bad, average; 马虎 -> careless. They have totally different meaning and cannot be replaced by each other. This is not so usual but it happens.
    – Xiaoge Su
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 22:04
  • This should not be the accepted answer because it is incorrect.
    – Frenzy Li
    Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 8:27

I am a native Chinese speaker of Northeastern Chinese origin.

"马马虎虎" can also be used when you are trying to be modest. For example, if someone praises you:

"Friso, 你的中文讲得好棒啊!" (Friso, your spoken Chinese is so good!)

Then you may reply with a smile, "马马虎虎,马马虎虎。"

People will interpret it as you're being modest, and they usually like a response like this.

Hope this helps.

  • So it's similar to 哪里哪里?
    – Friso
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 8:21
  • 1
    "哪里哪里" sounds a little formal and old-fashioned. "马马虎虎,马马虎虎" sounds casual and somewhat humorous. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 18:20
  • @mangoyogurt I generally find that the difference between how I use 马马虎虎 and 哪里哪里 in this context is that if I think my Chinese is pretty good then I would use 哪里哪里 whereas if I think my Chinese is not that good but someone thought it was then I would use 马马虎虎. If you pretend to sound too humble and it doesn't quite match your actual skill then it seems unnatural as well. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 4:54

*Q: How's your exam?




  • 马马虎虎 is not same as 马虎.
    – user4072
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 0:49

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