I'm confused about some words in Chinese, it seems like most of the time there are multiple ways to say the same word by adding some "basic particles" around it.

Like: , 等下, 等一下

To an online translator, it seems to mean the same. Is there any difference? Why is it like this?

As a new learner this makes listening and reading very complicated, because I never know where to cut the words in my head.

  • forgot to mention 等等, which besides meaning "and so forth" also has the usual meaning associated with verb reduplication, see jukuu for examples (wait a minute), there are slight differences, search web for corresponding articles
    – user6065
    Jun 28, 2017 at 11:38
  • corresponding articles: search.yahoo.com/yhs/…
    – user6065
    Jun 28, 2017 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


Why not?

English has the similar phenomenon. For example, the following phrases have the same meaning:
wait a bit
wait a mo
wait a moment
wait a second
wait a minute
wait a jiffy
wait a jiff

The following phrases have the same meaning:

等下 is not so common.

Usually, 等 means "to wait", not "to wait a second".
For example, 等人 means to wait for somebody. It is different from "to wait a second".

"Wait" can mean "wait a second" in English. 等 is not the same as 等一下 in Chinese.


Just like in English, you can say the same approximate meaning in different ways, as mentioned in another answer.

The 'why' behind this phenomenon is that it allows for differences in tone (not Mandarin tones, but the perceived emotional context of the phrase). For example, "wait for awhile" and "hang on for a min" have roughly the same meaning, but the latter is more casual.

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