Sometimes when I take a 滴滴打车 taxi to the university campus, the driver asks me if I'm a student, and I reply something along the lines of:

I'm a teacher
Wǒ shì lǎoshī

As far as I can tell, this is grammatically correct. However, more than once, the driver replied:

You're a teacher
Nǐ dāng lǎoshī

It feels almost like they're correcting me, but I don't really understand why. It's possible 我是老师 sounds more along the lines of what a child might say as it's very simple. (It's also possible I simply misheard them.)

Question: What's the difference between 我是老师 or 我当老师?

Among the zillions of meanings of , one is "to act as", so maybe 我当老师 has a meaning closer to "I perform the role of a teacher". But I still see no concrete reason that 我是老师 is wrong or inferior.

  • If that driver is questioning, that driver is just to confirm if you are truly a teacher and there is nothing wrong with 我是老师. It could be couple of reasons: 1. he didn't hear you well. 2. You look too young to be a teacher. Or there might be some other reasons which made him suspicious. If he said it as an affirmative sentence, it's like saying "oh, I see it. (you are a teacher)"
    – dan
    Nov 22, 2017 at 1:29
  • "我是老师" is pretty fine. The only thing I can guess is that the driver wants to response to your with more respect, especially when used with "您"; e.g. "您当老师啊".
    – user4072
    Nov 22, 2017 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


老师 = I am a teacher" It is completely correct

当 is a verb that means 'to be/ working as/ take on the role or position of'

老师= you being a teacher

来当老师 = you'll be a teacher

去当老师 = you go and be a teacher

当上了老师 = you've became a teacher

The driver's question "你当老师?" (you being a teacher?) was a rhetorical one. That imply "It is hard to believe people as young as you would be a teacher." He could had asked "你是老师?" and the meaning would be the same.

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