I've been learning with a course, and one of the lessons said: 这个男人在游泳, but the same sentence with a dog was: 这只狗在游水.

I presume that both were doing the same thing: swimming. So, can I use 游泳 with animals and 游水 with persons? What is the difference between them?


3 Answers 3


They are the same, you can also say

这只狗在游泳 or 这个男人在游水

The only difference is, 游水 is not commonly used anymore.


游水 is mainly a colloquial Cantonese term http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/1332/


/jau4 seoi2 / (jyutping)

swim, swimming. Mand.: 游泳

the entry of 游水 doesn't even include a Mandarin pinyin for it

Also logically, you can swim (游泳) in any liquid ; while 游水 specifically means swim in water, but even Cantonese ignore it, since it is very rare that someone swim in a liquid other than water

  • 游水 is in two Mandarin dictionnaries: ABC and 现代汉语规范词典. Oct 28, 2018 at 8:17

游泳 can be both formal and informal.

游水 is informal.

for example, a sign reads "NO SWIMMING" can only be translated as "禁止游泳"。

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