So I watched a movie, in this sentence why did they use 吃 rather than 喝?

  • 1
    敬酒不吃吃罚酒 is leveraged from the traditional Chinese and kept as is until today. Maybe, in some dialects, they may still say 吃酒. Out of some specific phrases, we'd use 喝 in standard Mandarin.
    – dan
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 0:50

8 Answers 8


"Drink" is one possible meaning of 吃. From the Taiwan Ministry of Education dictionary definition for 吃 (emphasis added):


It also has an entry specifically for 吃酒.

  • 4
    I would like to add that although using 吃 for 喝 is used to a degree in southern China. It is not common in northern China Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 22:28
  • 1
    @ScharlachNachtfalter exactly, I would say 吃(喫 )酒 in my dialect( Sounthern China). Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 20:41

The character 吃 is also a variant of 喫 (same pronunciation), where it retains the meaning of both "to eat" and "to drink".

This usage is preserved for example in Shanghainese, where 吃 is commonly used with liquids, whereas 喝 instead is almost never heard:

(吴语)吃茶 (qiek4 zo1), 吃汤 (qiek4 tong1), 吃酒 (qiek4 jieu2), etc.


To complete @Lionel Rowe's answer, a common variant in traditional Chinese would be 喫茶 in lieu of 吃茶. can be replaced by 吃 safely, but the converse is not true. Furthermore, you can observe that the variant 喫茶 was imported in Japanese as well. Remarkably, there is a famous koan "喫茶去" from 趙州從諗 (you can read a rather complete translation of the story in 知乎).


In ancient China, there was still lees in wine, so say "eat". In modern, wine is pure liquid, so we say "drinking".

说实在话,这也跟咱们华夏民族的酿酒史有关联。在古代,我们的酿酒技术没有今天这么高,酒糟、酒底和酒是在一起的,很多地方的酒确实是吃的,而不是喝的,因为有干的部分。再加上酒是粮食酿造的,所以古代人们会把酒底也吃掉。因此古代就出现了吃酒这个词,就像我们吃饭一样。古代很多场景说筛酒和温酒,而不是斟酒。因为要通过筛的程序去掉这些杂质。 尽管明清以后,酿酒业比较发达,酒精度升高,酒糟被滤掉,但是吃酒和筛酒的说法还是沿用,所以这就是为什么古代人会说“吃酒”的原因了。


In ancient Chinese, we always say 吃酒 long long ago. So means drink. It's just a habit. So in some acient dramas like 三国演义Romance of the Three Kingdoms, 水浒传Water Margin, 红楼梦Dream of the Red Chamber, they always use 吃酒. enter image description here

Now as times goes, we Chinese usually say 喝酒, rahter than 吃酒. For example, 嗨哥们,下班一块喝酒去. They will reponse with fine. But if you say 嗨哥们,下班一块吃酒去. Then they may say 你丫有病吧,看电视看多了吧.

  • In our dialect here, "eating wine" generally means going to a banquet, such as a wedding banquet or birthday banquet.
    – T-Pioneer
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 11:34
  • Which province or area? Suzhou?
    – Vincent
    Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 2:29
  • No, I'm from Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. It's next to Nanjing, not very far from Suzhou.
    – T-Pioneer
    Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 12:02

既然敬酒不吃那就吃罚酒 actually is 敬酒不吃吃罚酒, which is usually seen or heard in certain contexts. For example, TV show or movie. this sentence shows very strong emotion(mostly is anger),so please use it carefully.

there is an interest example about 喝水 and 吃水

喝水, as you know, means drink water, but 吃水 have very different meanings.


a. Draft, the depth of water needed for a boat to be able to float.

b. coolant leaks into your car or motorcycle engine. (Taiwan)


Clover is right. In ancient China, the "酒" is actually sweet rice drink like "醪糟" with less alchohol as today. That's also why ancient people can eat hundreds of cup of "酒" as shown in many ancient poems. People actually ate the rice together with drink.


Just remember have usage like that, it's not necessary to know the different behind it,most of the Chinese didn't know why.

  • Hello Michael, thank you for posting an answer. Please consider taking some time to read about how to write good answers. Answers that don't show effort and/or provide lasting value to users of this site might get downvoted and, some times, deleted.
    – blackgreen
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 18:37
  • Hi, @blackgreen, thanks for giving advice. Maybe my express took some mistaken. But trust me, I am telling the true, I am a chinese, and I didn't know why,and most chinese is same. Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 15:08

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