I'm a native Cantonese speaker, so in Cantonese I use 食 as a verb and hardly ever use 吃, but in Mandarin, 吃 replaces 食 as the verb "to eat". Because of that I'm not sure when to use 食 in a correct grammatical sense in Mandarin.

I'm 100% sure 食 isn't just one of those Cantonese-only words (like 哋 or 唔) and is used in Mandarin, so my question is: when do I use 吃 and when do I use 食 in Mandarin?


  • 2
    吃 is used as a verb, 食 is used as a noun.
    – user13501
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 8:58
  • question answered by online dictionaries (which have many application examples) and sentence search engine jukuu, (食 is a noun as well as a verb)
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 10:01
  • That's because the online dictionary reveals the written Chinese, or even classical Chinese form, here is the spoken Mandarin.
    – user13501
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 13:34
  • "现代汉语词典":食(1)吃:~肉|应多~蔬菜。(2)专指吃饭:~堂|废寝忘~。(3)人吃的东西:肉~|面~|副~|消~开胃|丰衣足~。(4)(~儿)一般动物吃的东西;饲料:猪~|鸡没~儿了|鸟儿出来找~儿。(5)供食用或调味用的:~物|~油|~盐。(6)月球走到地球太阳之间遮蔽了太阳,或地球走到太阳月球之间遮蔽了月球时,人所看到的日月亏缺或完全不见的现象:日~|月~。(esp. see (4) 食儿, spoken language)
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 15:18
  • 2
    dictionaries (see e.g. comment #4) show that 食, whether used as verb or noun is a bound morpheme (黏着语素),as dictionaries also show 吃 can be considered a free morpheme (自由语素),cf. jukuu: 别吃太多派。我从不吃菠菜。我们吃猪肉时蘸苹果汁。
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 14:13

5 Answers 5


In Mandarin, 食 is almost exclusively used as part of a two-syllable word like 饮食,食用,食品 and so on. It's basically never used as the verb "eat" in normal conversation, though it might show up in that sense in a very formal or written context.
If you always use 吃 outside of fixed two-syllable words, you'll be on the safe side.


  1. Send things into the mouth to swallow, or rely on something to live: ~饭。~药。~斋。
  2. destroy (used for military, chess): ~掉敌人一个连。
  3. Suction: ~烟。
  4. feel: ~惊。~紧。~一堑,长(zhǎng )一智。
  5. suffer: ~官司。
  6. Support and support: ~不消。
  7. depth of the hull into the water: ~水深浅。
  8. was: ~那厮砍了一刀。
  9. Talking stuttering: 口~。

  1. 吃:~肉。~欲。
  2. eat something: ~品。粮~。零~。丰衣足~。
  3. Salary: “君子谋道不谋~”。
  4. The sun and the moon is missing or completely disappeared:月~
  • No one really says 吃烟... a lot of your references are pretty obscure, and tangible at best.
    – Qwerp-Derp
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 12:05

http://dict.variants.moe.edu.tw/yitia/fra/fra04581.htm 食 is not only for none if you say it in different sound

i would use 食 in formal situation like 食用 eatable (used in article more) 吃 can be used in daily lives


食 in Classical Chinese has (at least) 3 different meaning 1. To feed another person or animal (In this case the pronouncing ion is ㄙˋ sì)

  1. To eat (also can use 饌 in Classical Chinese)

3 food

It's awesome that Cantonese preserved the classical way of using 食

In Mandarin, I think only the second meaning "to eat" is replaced with 吃 in daily conversation (in literature writing may or may not be different) So if 食 is used as the noun FOOD then it's still 食 But when it describes eating, like 好吃, then it's 吃。 I'd say that in most daily conversation, mandarin speakers use only 吃 for the verb to eat, ate, eating… etc. 吃飯、吃飽、好吃、大吃特吃 But in writing, in order to be elegent, a writer may choose to use 食 instead of 吃, for example 「禁止飲食」。Same thing with the word 飲。



  • 1) Answers should be in English unless specified otherwise, 2) this answer doesn't really answer the question.
    – Qwerp-Derp
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 12:07

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