I'm having trouble understanding this:

活着, p.3

My translation is:

[With] his finger picking trouser-leg mud, [he] angrily told me that it was his unfilial son, [but] when I next asked him why hit him, he hummed-and-hawed [and] spoke unclearly; I immediately knew he (准是对 ???) [his] daughter-in-law work (?) [in] stealthy, shady business.

Question: What does 我就立刻知道他准是对儿媳干了偷鸡摸狗的勾当 mean?

It seems like means allow, but I don't know why 是 nor 对 is used here. It's possible may mean "to have sex" here.

5 Answers 5



准 means surely;definitely.

是 is used as an adverb:

(重读, 表示坚决肯定, 含有“的确、实在”的意思)

E.g. 他是不知道 // He certainly doesn't know.

对 is a preposition, meaning to. E.g. 你对我做了什么 // What have you done to me.

干 means 做(do).

Over all, the sentence roughly means:

 I immediately knew he surely had done some stealthy, shady business to his daughter-in-law.

P.S. As you suspect, the sentence might invoke some sexual affairs.


他「準」是對 means 他「肯定」是對. The meaning is not「准」(允許).


I immediately knew that he did something shady to [pronoun] daughter-in-law.


I would translate it as


He must have done [something] to his daughter in law

The translation should reflect the following:

  1. he knew
  2. but he was guessing

In the link you provided, there is an example:


This man must be her husband.

It also used "must" in the translation. I feel that if you use "surely is" or "did" the guessing part is missing. Since you're better in English, maybe you can help me understand this.

  • I feel the difference between "I immediately knew he surely had done" and "I immediately knew he must had done", if any, is very subtle. But I'm not a native English speaker. I'm glad if anybody can teach me here.
    – dan
    Jan 11, 2020 at 0:45

I [then] knew immediately that he must have done something filthy [shady, stealthy, unseemly, etc.] to the daughter-in-law.

我 [就] 知道 立刻 他 准是 干了 偷鸡摸狗的勾当 对 儿媳.

准是 = 一定是. 干 = 做 = do. No need to connect the latter to its extended meanings.


His finger scraping the mud off his trouser leg,
he angrily told me his son is not a good son,
when I asked why he hit him,
he mumbled an answer,
I immediately knew he must have had sex with his daughter-in-law, (possibly raped her).

Just normal village life!

  • The sentence has not directly said that he have had sex with his daughter-in-law.
    – dan
    Jan 11, 2020 at 0:50
  • 1
    No, of course not, that is much too direct for Chinese people! They would never say that! What do you think he did? To what may 勾当 refer?
    – Pedroski
    Jan 11, 2020 at 1:40
  • 1
    It might invoke some sex affair, but not necessarily. It's just something bad which is unspeakable.
    – dan
    Jan 11, 2020 at 2:10
  • 1
    @Pedroski -- any special reason why 不孝, (not fifilal), is translated as "not a good son"? Could it be that the context of the situation calls for a "circumstantial translation" rather than a direct translation? As for Jan 11, 2020 at 2:31
  • As for 偷鸡摸狗的勾当, in an ordinary context, it may mean to steal or some unlawful activity. However, in the context of the situation in question when a 儿媳, (daughter-in-law) is involved and also using 干了 and 勾当 (which are normally used to describe some action which is not "morally good", especially 勾, "to hook" ), then I would say that sex, possibly non-consensual, was meant to have taken place or allegedly so. Jan 11, 2020 at 2:54

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.