I'm reading a weird story about a myna (八哥儿,是一种鸟儿) that speaks and is quoting the price for himself, since he's a talking bird. Is what he adds after his price idiomatically translated as something along the lines of "and not a single cent more," or something less emphatic?


The myna spoke again: "10 silver pieces, no more." The magistrate was elated.

  • 2
    You're right. It's like "not a single cent more" (don't give more than that). The original text in classic Chinese is 鸟又言:“给价十金,勿多予。”王益喜。 – Stan Sep 11 '13 at 2:52
  • By the way, a bit off-topic but do you know the moral of the story? I thought it ended abruptly with the bird and his original owner disappearing. Are we supposed to not trust talking birds? :) – ash Sep 11 '13 at 3:39
  • To question "Are we supposed to not trust talking birds?". No. This story just tells how a clever bird helps its owner -- the bird has a positive image. However I'm not going to summarize the "standard" moral of the story. You know, that's the sickest thing for Chinese (especially middle school) students :) You can have your own understanding of it. I just point out it's not so possible as what you considered. BTW, as there has been already an answer, I will just answer your question in the comment because I don't have much new information. – Stan Sep 11 '13 at 4:34
  • I agree with @Stan that there is not a standard moral of the story, not because we had too much of such practice in school, but because the original book (聊斋志异) in particular is a book of strange and supernatural anecdotes for your simple reading pleasure. – NS.X. Sep 11 '13 at 5:13
  • Yes, it's from a simplified collection of the strange stories that I'm reading, I shouldn't have expected a moral :) – ash Sep 12 '13 at 0:43

In my opinion, the key to strengthening your Chinese is to have confidence in your intuition within the context of Chinese. Not saying you aren't already confident, but more so to apply the following method to approach future confusing sentences.

Break them apart by word:

不 don't
要 want, do
多 more
给 give

You can infer from 不 + 要 = don't want, don't do something

As well as from 多 + 给 = give more

不要 + 多给 = don't give more.

From there, you can understand nuances of the sentence given the context derived from the preceding or proceeding sentence.

Preceding sentence: 你给十两银子 : Talking about giving 10 silver coins...

Then the proceeding 不要多给 probably has something to do with not giving any more of what the preceding sentence was talking about. In this case, coins.

An aside:

I would be careful not to rely on literally translating Chinese text into English expressions, but rather focus on developing intuition within the context of Chinese language; this ability to use the target language to dissect more complex meanings in the target language will strengthen your fluency. It will also develop feelings/connections with the Chinese word itself... so you can feel emotion from the Chinese words/texts... rather than getting that emotion from the English expression you've translated it to.

This is because many Chinese words are simply untranslatable to English given their cultural origins.

For example:

关系: in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your guanxi by asking for a favor to be repaid.

This concept is pretty foreign to English.

So when thinking about 关系, think about it in Chinese context, and not to translate it to the next best word in English.

Or perhaps 风水.

The list goes on.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. Indeed, I intuited the meaning but perhaps I should have asked, "Is this phrase a common idiom," rather than for a translation. As in, if someone were handing me pieces of candy and I'd had enough, could I stop them idiomatically by saying "不要多给"? Also to your point about 关系: I don't believe the concept itself is foreign (currying favor is practiced in all cultures), but perhaps the words themselves are, as you say, not easily translated. – ash Sep 12 '13 at 0:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.