These two phrases are often seen in everyday conversations,for example,这孩子真没出息,这孩子真不争气, roughly meaning this child is useless, this child is not good, but I am not sure whether these two phrases are similar in meaning。

6 Answers 6


Very similar, but 没出息 is way more critical than 不争气.

没出息 is a state/characteristic judging, the kid is worthless in the past, now and probably in the future.

不争气 is usually used under a specific failure, judging the performance or result.

"我真不争气": I've disappointed you.

"我真没出息": I am a good-for-nothing.

  • 1
    Additionally, 不争气 can be used on non-person like your falling stocks or broken computers, whereas it's going to sound weird if you say they're 没出息.
    – iBug
    Sep 1, 2021 at 3:52

Very similar. If I were to translate,


This kid will never amount to anything.


This kid will never do me (or himself/herself) proud.

不争气 carries a hint of affecting others and/or comparing with others whereas 没出息 is just about the kid.


没出息 - A person who is deemed mentally weak, physically useless, can't do anything right or chose the right path, and has no chance/willingness to be excel. (一般用於責備男子和男孩. 被指責的人多被視為懦弱無能, 或不學無術, 不具備致富達貴的條件).

不争气 - A (young) person whose performance is not up to the expectation of being the lead or ahead of his peers. (中國人好面子. 兒女不高人一等就覺得沒面子, 此等人多會責怪子女不能替父母爭口氣. 中國人又云, 人有"精","氣","神", 只有三者兼備一個人才無缺憾. 可見兒女爭氣是要事, 是父母的福氣和快樂喜悅的來源.)


Let's look at what 争气 and 出息 mean



①Refers to a dying man refuse to give up breathing ,②Achive success when being counted out

In other words, "show one's own worth/ make oneself proud"


出息: 前景或志向。Prospects or ambitions

  • 不争气 --> not show one's own worth/ not make oneself proud --> underachieving

  • 没出息 --> no prospects or ambitions --> underachieving

  • 不争气 usually describe a specific failure, e.g. 馬兒不争气跑了個倒數第一 (the horse I bet on didn't show its worth, it finished last --> it underachieved)

  • 没出息 is mostly used to describe general failure due to lack of ability or motivation --> someone is underachieving

If a kid 不争气, can't get into college this year, he can try next year

If a man is 没出息, can't hold on to any job for long, he will probably be like that for the rest of his life


Not the same.

不争气 means I want him be great but he is not.

没出息 means He is not good.contempt.


没出息 is result.

不争气 is process.

  • It depends on context. This is just one possible situation, but there could be more different usage.
    – hpwww
    Sep 1, 2021 at 12:12

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