I am now learning 近义词 and got a problem with distinguishing the difference between 留神,留意,留心. The textbook says:

他干什么特别留心,看书时也常常做笔记 (留神and留意arent allowed here)
多亏我对他留了一点心,这个情况没有告诉他 (留神 and 留意 arent allowed here)
你看得出来他吗? 我没有留意 (留神 and 留心 arent allowed here)

Why are some correct and some wrong?

  • This is a great project you're embarked on. Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


You should understand the three characters in the words firstly. 心:Mind 意:Sense 神: Focus

So add 留(keep) before them, becomes:

  • 留心:Keep in mind --> remember
  • 留意:Keep in sensitive --> ?
  • 留神:Keep on focus --> look out / be careful

My translation may not accurate in English, if someone have better translation, please comment below.

In your example,

  • sentence 1 talking about reading/studying, so 留心 should be the only correct word.
  • Sentence 2, here 留心 is separated, it's a derivative usage in my opinion. It means "keep defensive (because I remember he did something bad.)".
  • Sentence 3, I don't understand the meaning... and I don't want to guess (although I could) since it's a tutorial/exam, it should be clear.

The level of care or attention or focus: 留心 > 留意 > 留神

so for example if you agreed to help somebody to look into something, you can say: 我会给你留心的 sounds most serious and dedicated

我会给你留意的 also OK, but no promises

我会给你留神的 only if I have the spare time and engery

But, like the examples you have mentioned, the usages are mostly dictated by conventions than anything intrinsic.


Some of the Chinese word is influence by culture of Buddha, in order to explain 心,意,神. I think need the ancient Chinese wisdom to explain it...

I tried to explain it from what I know, here you can reference it

心:无形无相 = heart/core:(shapeless, formless)


神:let break this word and see, it's the combination of 示 and 申

示 means show

申 come from the basic word of 田(means farm or field)

When 田 become 申 it's show it connected or pass through to sky and ground or top or bottom, so this word 神 have the meaning of god.

When you are using 留神 this word it's have some meaning like stay focus.

  • I think the meaning of 神 in 留神 means spirit, not "god"
    – thinwa
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:53
  • I never say that meaning of 神 in 留神 is god
    – Le Parkour
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 2:36
  • I was explaining the single word bro
    – Le Parkour
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 2:37

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