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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。

4

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.

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  • 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 at 3:52
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Very similar. If I were to translate,

这孩子真没出息

This kid will never amount to anything.

这孩子真不争气

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.

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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.)

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Let's look at what 争气 and 出息 mean

争气

①指将要死去的人不愿断了最后一口气,②指被别人看不起时取得了好成绩。

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

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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.

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没出息 is result.

不争气 is process.

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

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