On some of my Chinese school worksheets, we're supposed to use "弄" in the following sentences:

Don't make the child cry.

Loosen the belt.

There is one more problem that has yet to be clarified.

I've researched it and I understand it means 做, but I don't know how to use it in the sentences above.


4 Answers 4


My impression as a learner is that 弄 functions as a unspecified verb. Basically, we take a sentence and replace a specific verb (or multiple verbs) by the unspecific 弄.

弄 is typically used within a result complement such as 弄到, 弄坏, 弄丢, 弄清楚, and so on. I'll focus on this common usage. In this way 弄 offers a short-cut to the result without specifying the verb which caused it. (It's also used in 弄得怎么样 and 怎么弄.)

In English, an unspecified verb would normally be phrased "to do", which is sometimes an appropriate translation. We'd use it in English in the phrase "get my hair done" in place of "get my hair cut", "get my hair dyed", etc.

Why do this? This is probably an incomplete list but here's some reasons...

1. Ignorance of which verb is correct

Let's start with this example:

The guest broke [by bashing] the TV

In Chinese, the verb is = "hit" and the result is = "break".

Now suppose we didn't know how the guest broke the TV, only that they broke the TV. Maybe they spilled a drink on the TV. Maybe they installed some software on it that broke it. Since we don't know what verb to use, we might use the unspecific 弄:

version 1: 客人了电视机
version 2: 客人把电视机[src]
The guest broke [in some unknown way] the TV

Note: It's common to use 把 in conjunction with 弄 as above (see: Using "ba" sentences).

Other examples:

Boy lost [in some unknown way] a public bike; asked for 25,500 yuan in compensation

Kid inattentively blinded [in some unknown way] another person's eyes

2. Multiple ways of doing something

This is similar to how "done" is used in "get your hair done" in English. If you go to a hairdresser, they don't immediately know what verb is appropriate for your hair. Maybe "dye" or "cut" or some other verb applies. Maybe multiple verbs are needed (e.g. the customer wants their hair both cut and dyed). For example:

How to do hair, both good looking and simple: photos

Solved! Why Wei Shihao wants to do this kind of new hairstyle.

Other examples are:

How to be able to make clear [in some way] what you want?

When leaving office, [you] must understand [in some way] these four points, or else it will result in more job-hopping and more bad luck

We "make something clear" or "understand" = "make something understood (to yourself)", but there's not a singly way of achieving this.

3. To encompass all possibly ways of doing something

Let's start here:

Don't damage your clothes by washing them.

Don't damage your clothes by wearing them out.

Don't damage your clothes by cutting them.

We can say all of these (and more) at once using:

Don't damage [in any way] your clothes.

Other examples:

In this stadium, I played my last match, don't make me cry [in any way], because I am now happy

4. To withhold this information

Sha Yi made [in some unspecified way] Guo Jingmeng cry

You need to read the article to understand how Sha Yi made Guo Jingmeng cry.

You've already messed up [in some unspecified way] my heart, when will you mess up [in some unspecified way] my bed?


So let's try it on the given examples:

  1. Don't make the child cry.

    I found this used here.

  2. Loosen the belt.

    The closest I found online is:

    Newly-bought T-shirt sleeves are a little tight, how to loosen them?

  3. There is one more problem that has yet to be clarified.

    I found this used here.


弄,搞,做 have similar meanings. It is hard to memorize which one to use in all cases. And in many situations, these words can have meanings which might not be listed in the dictionary.

Basically, 弄 means an action. You can treat it as "make something/somebody + adjective" structure. The correct action (example: 弄伤=make sb. injured=injure sb.=伤害) can be inferred from the context in most cases. 弄 is more similar to 搞 than 做.

As a native speaker, I suggest you directly memorize the usual combination of 弄, 搞, 做 with other words to save your time. (You could search the web to see which expression is the most accepted one)

And in some cases, these three words have different meanings when you exchange one for another in a phrase. For example, “搞事情” means doing something (possibly illegal/destructive/chaotic), but "做事情" means doing something (constructive, positive).

  • 1
    The meaning of 弄 搞 also changes with region. In North China, people tends to say 弄 and in the south people say 搞. Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 12:34

and have different nuances. It is easy to see this by looking closer at character etymology:

  • 弄 depicts two hands playing around with a piece of jade (reduced from ), extended to mean fiddling around/tinkering with and doing trivial or unimportant things. Note that, in the latter sense, 弄 is sometimes interchangeable with , which also has the semantic component jade (王).
  • 做 originated as a differentiated character from , which compounds a person with a combination of (a blade written upside down + a piece of wood) , depicting woodchopping. 作 has been extended to mean to work, and importantly, 做/作 does not have the sense of triviality compared to 弄.

This clearly indicates that there are situations where 弄 and 做 can or shouldn't be interchanged:

  • For actions which are clearly important, it is improper to use 弄; e.g. you shouldn't say 弄作業 for doing homework or 弄工作 for doing a job.
  • For actions which are ambiguously important, 弄 and 做 are mostly interchangeable; e.g. a child might describe a hobby of theirs with 做, while a parent might disparagingly discourage them by describing it with 弄.
  • For actions which to do with fiddling/tinkering around with, it is appropriate to use 弄, e.g. 弄鬆腰帶 (loosen the belt). As an extension, this can be extended to people (via the meaning to tease/harass), hence 別把小孩子哭 (don't tease the child till he/she cries). Since 做 is a rather ambiguous action word, it is inappropriate to use 做 here.

弄 could mean: make, manage to do.

Don't make the child cry: 别把小孩弄哭了.

Loosen the belt: 把腰带弄松.

There is one more problem that has yet to be clarified: 还有一个问题尚有待于弄清楚.

  • this doesn't help the OP very much. it's more like you are doing her homework
    – blackgreen
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 15:34
  • @TXV First, I explained the meaning of 弄. Secondly, OP says " I don't know how to use it in the sentences above. " and I show him how to put it in those sentences. If you still feel that's not helpful, I might not know what would be more helpful then.
    – dan
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 23:08

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