I found this proverb in a translated article:「如果做某事太慢,還不如乾脆停下來。」Does anyone know its original form? I have searched several Chinese proverb sites but couldn't find anything remotely related to it.

  • 2
    It doesn't ring any bell. It's somehow against Chinese culture. Chinese promotes the idea of "不怕慢,就怕站", which is opposite to the one you are looking for.
    – dan
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 7:32
  • @dan I found the one you mentioned when doing online search.
    – joehua
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 8:08
  • To me it seems to be a proverb about someone who does things so half heartedly that he might as well not do it at all. Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 9:23
  • Can you provide more context? If you see it in a translated article, presumably an English article, can you show us the English?
    – Betty
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 7:40
  • @ Betty The original book, which I have no access to, is in English. What I have is the translated text in Chinese. The original Chinese proverb was translated into English by the author and was translated back to Chinese by the translator. The translator did not try to find out the proverb in its original form in Chinese. He simply translated it from English. The result is a proverb nobody has heard of.
    – joehua
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 11:50

3 Answers 3


The context is immensely helpful. I managed to find the source. It is from the book The building of The Burma Road by Tan Pei-Ying (譚伯英《打通滇緬路》). I found the excerpt in its original English version from Google Books.

enter image description here

Apparently the person who translated it into Chinese made a mistake. The English is the opposite of the translated Chinese. It seems that @dan's comment is quite right.

There are also many Chinese proverbs with similar meaning, eg 绳锯木断, 水滴石穿, and 只要功夫深,铁杵磨成针.

  • Wow! Thank you so much. I know the translator's Chinese isn't good. I didn't know his English is so bad.
    – joehua
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 7:22
  • I wonder why Google Books doesn't let me preview the book. It let me preview other books but not this one. The page says "preview unavailable." I wonder how you did it.
    – joehua
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 5:10
  • @joehua I don't know. I just searched and saw. It's possible that Google Books looks at the country/area/account preview history, etc.
    – Betty
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 7:53

There is a saying: "一不做,二不休"(either don't do or don't stop).

It means "Either not doing it, or see it through to the end once you started"

In other words: "If you are not ready to finish what you started (too slow to finish), then don't do it (stop)"

Maybe it is the origin of this translated proverb

  • Thanks for the answer. When I see "一不做,二不休", the first thing that comes in my mind is kidnappers saying "一不做,二不休, we'll just kill the hostage." Evidently, I have watched too many crime movies.
    – joehua
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 7:20

I really have not heard of such original proverb. But there is one really close, but it is a funny modern phrase, used in southern China or Hong Kong:


it means

if the business (such as a mom and pop grocery store) is so low, we may as well play some mahjong or do a little bit of gambling

but this is the closest one I can think of, similar to what you wrote down as 如果做某事太慢,還不如乾脆停下來

There is another phrase that is close:


It means

Either we don't do it, or we do it the best

but it has different connotation as your phrase because your phrase is suggesting stop when things are slow, while the phrase above is more like choosing between not doing it or doing it the best.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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