I have a lot of context that I want to use this phrase to describe a certain type of people. I tried to translate it as "Not being ashamed of using evil methods to accomplish goals". But I think my translation is still a little bit redundant and not formal enough. Can someone help me make it less redundant and more accurate?


Sometimes the context might not be "by immoral means", it also encapsulated a context of "by unusual means". For ex, someone has solved an engineering problem by extremely brutal force which violated existing engineering standard and regulations, it works, but it also makes it way harder to integrate his solution into a more comprehensive system. Colleagues might think he's too achievement-oriented that breaks certain rules and conditions that other people have maintained.

  • a literal translation seems to be "not be choosy about the means used to reach a goal" note: 为达目的 in order to attain one's goal, 不择手段 bkrs: by fair means or foul by hook or by crook unscrupulously
    – user6065
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 21:59
  • How about: nefarious.
    – Mou某
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 3:45
  • @user6065 crook unscrupulously sounds legit.
    – RandomEli
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


Generally speaking, I encourage you to check out the meaning in Chinese when you encounter 成语. It took me a while to finally get to know that it is hard to understand what a given 成语 means in English but is clear enough once I read the explanation in Chinese (this holds true of any words but especially so in the case of 成语, which is closely related to the culture).

Back to the topic, 不择手段 means:


In English, the word means:

In order to achieve a goal, a person uses whatever he or she could (including anything considered immoral or dishonest by others).

Don't try to understand it by an English dictionary as the listed meaning is quite awkward and hard to grasp. For example, in the case of 不择手段:

  1. unscrupulously

  2. by fair means or foul

These explanations sound less redundant, but seems to me the loss of original meaning.

  • Unscrupulous(ly) is quite fitting.
    – Mou某
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 6:49
  • @user3306356 According to my English dictionary, unscrupulous means having or showing no moral principles; not honest or fair. This does not include the meaning of 指为达到某种目的.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 6:52
  • Sure but [他]为达目的不择手段 could easily be translated as He's unscrupulous.
    – Mou某
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 7:04


In German it's easy:

Er geht über Leichen um seine Ziele zu erreichen.

English: He'll do anything to attain his ends.


I’ll do whatever to achieve whatever. and how about “by all means”?

  • "by all means" sounds very neutral. I think you might want to add "including immoral ones" to provide the context
    – RandomEli
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 16:13

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