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When is it appropriate to use 一言难尽? Please supply a scenario where this would be a good reply. I have found this in my dictionary but I want to make sure I use in in the correct context.

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If you use Facebook, you may know the relationship status It's complicated; the Chinese version is 一言難盡. That said, the phrase is intended be used whenever the situation is complicated, in a good way or in a bad way. On the other hand, despite its intended usage, people often use it for certain feelings or thoughts in disguise, such as when they simply do not feel like sharing.

I'll give some sample scenarios, in addition to that in @Shiji.Jiang's answer:

  • Situation is literally complicated

「你怎麼在這?你不是去美國了?」

"Why are you here? I thought you went to the States."

「我本來是要去啊!一言難盡啊。」

"I was going! It's complicated."

  • "I'm not in the mood"

「怎麼啦?看起來心情不太好的樣子。是他(她)嗎?」

"What's wrong? Ain't looking good. Was it him(her)?"

「別提了,一言難盡啊。」

"Forget it, it's complicated."

*Note that the context can be family relations, friendships, marriage, etc.

  • "I can't tell you that!"

「你們的產品是怎麼做出來的啊?教教我吧!」

"How do you make this thing you're selling? Teach me!"

「這一言難盡啊,我也說不清楚。」

"It's complicated; I can't explain it well."

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In English, you would start with "It's a long story, ..." when somebody asks you about a complicated event.

In Chinese, you start with "一言难尽" in this situation.

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Example 1:

"老大,我听说你以前生意做地很好呀,怎么现在混得这么惨?"

“兄弟,这件事真是一言难尽,我们找个地方喝两杯,容我慢慢跟你讲”

Note:

Use 一言难尽 when the situation is worse than before.

From 生意做地很好 to 混得这么惨

Example 2:

"老李,好多年没见你了,上次同学聚会听说在经济危机的时候,你在股市赔了一大笔钱,你后来是怎么东山再起的?"

“唉,一言难尽啊,那个时候和媳妇起早贪黑批发蔬菜,打拼了好几年才把赔的钱赚回来”

Note:

have you found the change of situation in this example? It's pretty difficult.

From 赔了一大笔钱 to 东山再起 is getting better

Why I'm still using that? Because:

The point is from 原来不需要那么格外辛苦的赚钱(上下文分析,赔钱之前) to 起早贪黑工作(赔钱之后)

(I'm a native speaker, which means the grammar I use is more descriptive)

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