For example, how would one translate "this is harder than you think"? My initial thought would be something like 这个比你想更难, but I don't know whether that sounds idiomatic in Chinese

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    You should pay attention to @Tang Ho's answer, as "似易實難" is the most idiomatic translation of "it looks easy but actually is harder than you think".
    – r13
    Aug 16, 2021 at 19:47
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    I agree. But of course normal people don't talk like that in everyday conversations. If you do, some might think you are a Time Traveler from the Song Dynasty :) Aug 17, 2021 at 7:04
  • @ Wayne Cheah modern Chinese language mix colloquial, literary, classical, and slang elements together. saying 此事似易實難也 might make you sound like an ancient man, but reducing 這件事看似容易但其實十分困難 to 這件事似易實難 does make your speech more concise. Idioms is a great language tool we use everyday
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 17, 2021 at 9:08
  • @WayneCheah That (idiomatic translation) was the OP's question, not just a typical "translation".
    – r13
    Aug 17, 2021 at 12:18
  • @r13 Yes, that's why I said "I Agree", meaning I agree that it was a good "idiomatic translation" of OP's question which was to seek an idiomatic translation of "this is harder than you think"? I hope I got it right this time. My other comment about a Time Traveler from the Song Dynasty was made in jest, hence the ":)" Lighten up :) Learning Chinese should be fun. Aug 17, 2021 at 13:01

4 Answers 4


I would translate "It is harder than I/you think" as 似易實難.

As for "....than you think", the literal translation is "比(我)想像中的更....". I don't think there is a more idiomatic way to say it.


这比(我/你)想像中的更早 = earlier than I/ you think

这比(我/你)想像中的更難 = more difficult than I/ you think

这比(我/你)想像中的更差 = worse than I/ you think

pronouns in ( ) can be omitted

  • 1
    Apparently 知易行難 means "easy to grasp but difficult to put into practice", which is not at all what "it is harder than you think" means. So I think the first part of this answer is wrong/misleading. However the rest of this answer seems to me to be helpful and correct. Aug 16, 2021 at 9:38
  • @goPlayerJuggler yes,知易行難 seems off. Changed to 似易實難
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 16, 2021 at 14:37

The proper translation should be 这个比你想象的更难, or 这个比你想象的要难(more oral and idiomatic). Skipping leads to the grammar error of Incomplete object, and by adding you can change an verb into a noun.



Well, you are getting there.

A sensible alternative is 比你想像的更难

1st, 这个 is too indefinite. It leaves the sentence "hanging" You'll have to say, for example, 这个任务, (this assignment), 这种工作,(this kind of work), etc.

Coming to 想. Well, just "thinking" alone by itself is "incomplete" because even in English you have to use, "imagine", "visualize", "consider", "picture", "envisage", "ponder" to cater for various kinds of "thinking"

Thus in Chinese, in the context of your sentence, you could use 想像, "imagine", "visualize" as one common option in this kind of situation.

Finally, you need to add 的 before 更难

There are many answers in this Forum on the use of 的. So, do a search.

Reading your question again, you mean to reduce the sentence to the "size", "to function" like a Chinese Idiom?

In that case, using your own attempt, you could contract it to 比想更难, (Harder than thought), because the other words like 这,个,你, are functionally superfluous.

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    It seems clear to me that the OP was not asking about reducing the size of the sentence. IMO OP uses the word "idiomatic" in the sense of "as it would be phrased by native speakers". Aug 16, 2021 at 9:43
  • Had I misread OP's question, I of course stand corrected. Aug 16, 2021 at 11:45
  • Yeah I meant idiomatic as in "as would be phrased by native speakers"
    – T Hummus
    Aug 16, 2021 at 22:11

It seems 這個比你想像的更難 is pretty much what all the three answers agree upon. I'd just like to provide an alternative - 這個比你所想的更難。

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