I know there are thousands of chengyu (成语) (4 character proverbs in Chinese) out there, so obviously I would not have time to learn them all.

Could I have 5 of these chengyu from you? (bonus marks if you could explain the meaning/context).

I appreciate it!

An example of a useful Chengyu phrase is one which forms basis of everyday applications: 四通八達 (extend equally in all directions) for example, is sort of where the 八達通 (octopus card in Hong Kong) got its name from.


5 Answers 5


A work place is also a social environment, almost all idioms can be incorporated into everyday conversations in the workplace. However, some idioms are more applicable in the work place.

  • 公事公辦 - to not let personal affairs interfere with business

  • 皇親國戚 -person having powerful connections (boss's daughter and son-in-law, for example)

  • 假公濟私 - under the guise of the name of the official affair, to seek personal benefits.

  • 知人善任 - be good at recognizing people's character and talent, and use them appropriately.

  • 各司其職 - Everyone perform their own duties ( no overstepping)

  • 盡忠職守 - loyally fulfill one's duty

  • 欺上瞞下 - Deceive one's superiors and underlings alike

  • 開源節流 - to increase income and save on spending (when your boss say that, the company is about to cut benefit or lay people off)


a newbie

菜鳥應該自認 才疏學淺 孤陋寡聞 有如 井底之蛙 所知有限
對公司的文化習慣更是 一無所知 一竅不通
縱然是 三頭六臂 神通廣大 學富五車 才高八斗
也不可 恃才傲物 妄自尊大 目中無人 不可一世
更不可 自命不凡 自以為是 夜郎自大 剛愎自用
應當 虛懷若谷 謙卑自牧 移樽就教 不恥下問
同事 循循善誘 諄諄教誨 善意提醒 好心指點
自當 聚精會神 洗耳恭聽 聞一知十 舉一反三
不可 漫不經心 馬耳東風 囫圇吞棗 不求甚解

做事應 按部就班 有條不紊 兢兢業業 任勞任怨
若是想 出奇制勝 標新立異 好高騖遠 眼高手低
常落得 班門弄斧 不自量力 布鼓雷門 貽笑大方
真是 關公面前耍大刀 孔夫子門前賣文章
倘若是 敷衍塞責 文過飾非 避重就輕 好逸惡勞
終究是 水落石出 自取其辱 因小失大 得不償失

才疏學淺 to have little talent and less learning
孤陋寡聞 ignorant and ill-informed
井底之蛙 a person with a very limited outlook and experience
一無所知 to know nothing at all
一竅不通 to be utterly ignorant of
三頭六臂 three heads and six arms; superhuman powers
神通廣大 to have great magic power
學富五車 of great erudition and scholarship
才高八斗 to have profound learning; of great talent
恃才傲物 to be inordinately proud of one's ability
妄自尊大 to be overweening; be too big for one's boots
目中無人 supercilious; to consider everyone beneath one's notice
不可一世 to be insufferably arrogant
自命不凡 to consider oneself no ordinary; self-glorification
自以為是 self-righteous; bumptious
夜郎自大 extremely arrogant
剛愎自用 headstrong; opinionated
虛懷若谷 to be very modest
謙卑自牧 to keep modest so as to cultivate one's moral character
移樽就教 (to take one's wine cup to another person's table to seek his advice) to go to somebody for advice
不恥下問 not to feel ashamed to ask and learn from one's subordinates
循循善誘 to teach with patience and skill
諄諄教誨 belecture; inculcate
聚精會神 to concentrate one's attention
洗耳恭聽 to listen with respectful attention
聞一知十 to infer the whole matter after hearing but one point
舉一反三 to draw inferences about other cases from one instance
漫不經心 heedless; unmindful; inattentive
馬耳東風 to go in one ear and out the other; to pay no attention to what one said
囫圇吞棗 (to swallow dates whole) to lap up information without digesting it
不求甚解 not to seek to understand things thoroughly
按部就班 to follow the prescribed order
有條不紊 systematically; methodically; in an orderly way
兢兢業業 cautious and conscientious
任勞任怨 to bear hardship without complaining
出奇制勝 to win victory through unexpected moves
標新立異 to do something unconventional or unorthodox
好高騖遠 to reach for what is beyond one's grasp
眼高手低 to have grandiose aims but puny abilities
班門弄斧 to display one's slight skill before an expert
不自量力 to go beyond one's depth
布鼓雷門 to take things to a place where they already abound; to make a fool of oneself by foolish display
貽笑大方 to make a laughingstock of oneself before experts
避重就輕 to avoid the important and dwell on the trivial
好逸惡勞 (love to go ease and hate to work hard) to despise labor and love ease
敷衍塞責 to perform one's duty in a perfunctory manner
文過飾非 to cover up one's mistakes
水落石出 the whole things come to obvious
自取其辱 to bring disgrace on one's own head; to ask for an insult
因小失大 to try to save a little only to lose a lot; to spoil the ship for a halfpennyworth of tar
得不償失 the gains do not make up for the losses; to be not worth the candle

(tag line)
關公面前耍大刀 being a snob in front of a true expert; to teach one's grandmother how to suck eggs
孔夫子門前賣文章 to show off in the presence of an expert

  • Interesting. I imitate your style and make another one.
    – user3a
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 9:35
  • Hi! I also copy your style.
    – user16115
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 9:22

Two seniors

甲經理 老成持重 一絲不苟 實事求是 公正無私
看似 不苟言笑 態度嚴肅
其實 和藹可親 平易近人
對公司 忠心耿耿 鞠躬盡瘁
對部屬 寬大仁厚 一視同仁
做人 推心置腹 以誠相待 心口如一 古道熱腸
做事 一板一眼 有條有理 深思熟慮 以身作則
團隊 心悅誠服 五體投地 一團和氣 事半功倍

乙經理 老氣橫秋 倚老賣老 大腹便便 腦滿腸肥
看似 和顏悅色 笑容可掬
其實 口蜜腹劍 笑裡藏刀
對公司 虛與委蛇 陽奉陰違
對部屬 吹毛求疵 厚此薄彼
做人 鉤心鬥角 錙銖必較 花言巧語 幸災樂禍
做事 患得患失 朝令夕改 舉棋不定 一意孤行
團隊 動輒得咎 怨聲載道 一盤散沙 無所適從

老成持重 to be experienced and prudent
一絲不苟 dot the i's and cross the t's; to do things carefully and seriously
實事求是 to be practical and realistic
公正無私 disinterested; to be impartial to
不苟言笑 serious in speech and manner
和藹可親 to be courteous and accessible; gentle and affable
平易近人 easy of approach; common as an old shoe
忠心耿耿 loyal and devoted
鞠躬盡瘁 to spare no effort in the performance of one's duty
一視同仁 to treat equally without discrimination
推心置腹 to confide in somebody; to bare one's heart
以誠相待 to treat somebody with all sincerity; to be honest with
心口如一 to say what one thinks; to be frank and unreserved
古道熱腸 considerate and warmhearted
一板一眼 to follow a prescribed pattern in speech or action; scrupulous
有條有理 systematical; methodical; orderly
深思熟慮 to think over carefully; to mull
以身作則 to lead by personal example; to set oneself an example to others
心悅誠服 to feel a heartfelt admiration; to be sincerely convinced
五體投地 to admire someone with the utmost sincerity
一團和氣 to be full of goodwill toward one another
事半功倍 to get twice the result with half the effort
老氣橫秋 arrogant on account of one's seniority
倚老賣老 to take advantage of one's seniority
大腹便便 a big belly
腦滿腸肥 the idle rich; one is fully fed and never uses his brain
和顏悅色 with a kind and pleasant countenance
笑容可掬 to show pleasant smiles
口蜜腹劍 honey-mouthed and dagger-hearted; hypocritical and malignant
笑裡藏刀 to hide a dagger behind a smile; a velvet paw
虛與委蛇 to deal with somebody courteously but without sincerity
陽奉陰違 to overtly agree but covertly oppose
吹毛求疵 to find a quarrel in straw; carp; to cavil
厚此薄彼 to favor one more than another; to make fish on one and flesh of another
鉤心鬥角 to intrigue against each other
錙銖必較 to haggle over every penny; to dispute over every detail
花言巧語 blandishments; sweet words
幸災樂禍 to take pleasure in others' misfortune; Roman holiday
患得患失 to be swayed by considerations of gain and loss
朝令夕改 to issue order in the morning and rescind it in the evening
舉棋不定 to be unable to make up one's mind; to vacillate; to hesitate
一意孤行 to take one's own course; to take the bit between one's teeth
動輒得咎 to be blamed for whatever one does
怨聲載道 complaints are heard everywhere
一盤散沙 in a state of disunity; disunited
無所適從 don't know what course to take


A boss

董事長 大公無私 一言九鼎 樂善好施 德高望重
雖逾 古稀之年 雞皮鶴髮
但仍 老當益壯 生龍活虎
老人家 滿腹經綸 出口成章
常能 開誠布公 高談闊論 滔滔不絕 侃侃而談
因其 言之有物 發人深省 苦口婆心 頭頭是道
時為 春風化雨 時乃 當頭棒喝
令人聽得 津津有味 興致勃勃 豁然貫通 茅塞頓開

對公司業務 來龍去脈 了如指掌
指導員工常 單刀直入 一針見血
不可 虎頭蛇尾 半途而廢 投機取巧 得過且過 朝秦暮楚 優柔寡斷
要能 腳踏實地 精益求精 小心翼翼 明察秋毫 深思熟慮 當機立斷
應該 提綱挈領 一目了然 行雲流水 井井有條
不可 語無倫次 不知所云 模棱兩可 空洞無物
不可 愁眉苦臉 怨天尤人 妄自菲薄 因噎廢食
應當 不屈不撓 痛定思痛 再接再勵 反敗為勝
事在人為 人定勝天 撥雲見日 否極泰來
休戚與共 同舟共濟 集思廣益 眾志成城 群策群力 戮力同心
自命清高 獨來獨往 各持己見 各行其是 自私自利 各自為政
力所能及 慷慨解囊 推己及人 助人為樂 嘉言善行 則是 多多益善

大公無私 selfless
一言九鼎 (one word is as heavy as nine tripods) to keep one's promise
樂善好施 to be happy in doing good
德高望重 to be of noble character and high prestige
古稀之年 seventy years of age
雞皮鶴髮 (wrinkled skin and white hair) advanced in age
老當益壯 to become more vigorous with age
生龍活虎 (a lively dragon and an active tiger) full of vim and vigor; vivid
滿腹經綸 full of knowledge; profoundly learned
出口成章 to have an outstanding eloquence
開誠布公 to wear one's heart on one's sleeve; to speak frankly and sincerely
高談闊論 to talk with eloquence; to speechify
滔滔不絕 to talk fluently and endlessly
侃侃而談 to speak with fervor and assurance
言之有物 to have substance in speech
發人深省 to stimulate deep thought
苦口婆心 to advise earnestly and kindly
頭頭是道 clear and logical
春風化雨 salutary influence of education
當頭棒喝 (a blow and a shout) to give sharp advice for one to wake up from error
津津有味 with great interest
興致勃勃 enthusiastically; full of zest; in spirits
豁然貫通 suddenly see the whole thing in a clear light
茅塞頓開 to come to a understanding all of a sudden
來龍去脈 the beginning and subsequent development of; cause and effect
了如指掌 to know something like the palm of one's hand; to be thoroughly familiar with
單刀直入 to come straight to the point
一針見血 to pierce to the truth with a single pertinent remark; to hit the nail on the head
虎頭蛇尾 (a tiger's head and a snake's tail) fine start and poor finish
半途而廢 to give up halfway
投機取巧 to be opportunistic
得過且過 to muddle along; to drift along
朝秦暮楚 fickle; inconstant
優柔寡斷 indecision; irresolution; yea and nay
腳踏實地 (to stand on solid ground) to be down-to-earth; to do solid work
精益求精 to constantly improve something; to keep improving
小心翼翼 carefully; cautiously
明察秋毫 to be able to examine the tiniest things; to see through a brick wall
深思熟慮 to think over carefully
當機立斷 to make a prompt decision; to decide in the nick of time
提綱挈領 (to hold a net by the headrope or a coat by the collar) to concentrate on the main points
一目了然 to understand fully at a glance; to be clear at a glance
行雲流水 (like floating clouds and flowing water) a natural and smooth writing
井井有條 in perfect order; methodical
語無倫次 to speak incoherently; to talk in a confused manner
不知所云 not know what is said; unintelligible
模棱兩可 ambiguous; cut both ways; on the line
空洞無物 to be devoid of content
愁眉苦臉 a sad face; a worried look; a distressed expression
怨天尤人 (to blame god and man) to blame everyone and everything but oneself
妄自菲薄 to improperly belittle oneself; to underestimate oneself
因噎廢食 (to refuse to eat for fear of choking) to give up making renovations for fear of a little trouble
不屈不撓 unyielding; indomitable
痛定思痛 to draw a lesson from a bitter experience
再接再勵 to make untiring efforts; to continue to exert oneself
反敗為勝 to turn defeat into victory; to turn the tables
事在人為 It all depends on human effort.
人定勝天 human can conquer nature
撥雲見日 to dispel the clouds and to see the sun; restore justice
否極泰來 out of the depth of misfortune comes bliss
休戚與共 to stand together through thick and thin
同舟共濟 People in the same condition help each other.
集思廣益 to draw on collective wisdom and absorb all useful ideas
眾志成城 unity is strength
群策群力 to pool the wisdom and efforts of everyone
戮力同心 to pull together and work hard as a team
自命清高 acting as if one is morally better than other people
獨來獨往 to have no contact with anyone
各持己見 to stick to one's own view
各行其是 to go one's own way
自私自利 selfish; self-concern
各自為政 to do things in one's own way
力所能及 as far as one's capacity allows
慷慨解囊 (to loosen one's purse strings generously) to give alms liberally
推己及人 to treat other people as you would yourself
助人為樂 to take pleasure in helping people
嘉言善行 fine words and deeds
多多益善 the more the better

(This is a good style because it not only gives the phrases but shows the example sentences. So, I made my own.)

  1. 畫蛇添足 adding legs when drawing a snake (meaning: adding unnecessary parts)
  2. 馬到成功 attaining success upon arriving on a horse
  3. 五顏六色 colorful
  4. 守株待兔 waiting idly for opportunities
  5. 車水馬龍 heavy traffic

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.