The other day I discussed the song 岁月如歌 with my friend. We're from different Mandarin regions and I’m able to watch many Cantonese shows without subtitles but don’t really speak it. Neither of us could understand some lines of the lyrics.

1、道别不可再等你 不管有没有

Does 机 mean 机会? Since the preceding line has 飞 and this song is used as the theme song for 冲上云霄, We also suspect it means 飞机. Does Cantonese naturally use 机 like this, or it's a special treatment used in songs?

2、给我体贴入微 但你 如明日便要远离

We couldn't even put a guess on what 但你手 means.


Mandarins don’t use 忆记. 《汉语大词典》 says 憶記=記憶. However, when I try to search 忆记 in the corpus, I only find “忆记来时魂悄悄,想见仙山众峰小” “君昔将我金去,不忆记乎?” ”苦恨眼边常忆记“ ”一梦十年劳忆记“ ”犹能忆记“ In those sentences, 忆记 is a verb meaning 记得、记住、回忆起, very different from what 记忆 means in its noun part of speech and cannot be replaced. Is it true that in Cantonese 忆记=记忆=memories?

4、Other sentences also read quite awkward for us, but we can more or less understand them. I know in songs sometimes the lines are not written in full or in normal order; we make adjustments to align them better with melodies and rhythms. I never feel such awkwardness as this in Mandarin songs, but often so in Cantonese songs. My question is: Does this awkwardness come from the difference of spoken languages per se, or is it because some special treatment is done for Cantonese songs?

For reference, below is the full lyrics.

爱上了 看见你 如何不懂谦卑

去讲心中理想 不会俗气

犹如看得见晨曦 才能欢天喜地

抱着你 我每次 回来多少惊喜

也许一生太短 陪着你

情感有若行李 仍然沉重待我整理

天气不似如期 但要走 总要飞

道别不可再等你 不管有没有机

给我体贴入微 但你手 如明日便要远离

愿你可以 留下共我曾愉快的忆记

当世事再没完美 可远在岁月如歌中找你

再见了 背向你 眉头多少伤悲

也许不必再讲 所有道理

何时放松我自己 才能花天酒地

抱着你 我说过 如何一起高飞

这天只想带走 还是你

如重温往日邮寄 但会否疲倦了嬉戏

天气不似如期 但要走 总要飞

道别不可再等你 不管有没有机

给我体贴入微 但你手 如明日便要远离

愿你可以 留下共我曾愉快的忆记

当世事再没完美 可远在岁月如歌中找你

  • 機 may have a double meaning here, but it surely mainly refers to aeroplane. Note that the song is the theme song for 《衝上雲霄》, a TV drama about the daily life of aircrews. The previous line “但要走,總要飛” in the lyrics is also about departure by plane. Jun 13, 2022 at 11:20
  • As for 手, it's a metaphor about a pair of lovers who were holding hands but they eventually had to let go. Jun 13, 2022 at 11:23
  • And yes, 憶記=記憶. The character orders in Cantonese words are sometimes reverses of their Mandarin counterparts. E.g. 平和/和平 (peace) and 質素/素質 (quality). In such words, usually both orders are acceptable in Cantonese but only one is acceptable in Mandarin. However, there are also cases where only one character order is predominant in Cantonese. E.g. a swing set is always called 韆鞦 in verbal Cantonese but 鞦韆 in Mandarin. Jun 13, 2022 at 11:46
  • As for your last question, as I don't know what awkwardness you are referring to, I haven't a definite answer. Yet I think it is not surprising that one feels awkward if one tries to understand one language from the perspective of another. Jun 13, 2022 at 11:54

3 Answers 3

  1. Yes, it means 機會. And we sometimes use 機 like this. (有沒有機 can be expressed as 有冇機 in spoken Cantonese, which is a common expression). For example, 有啲機喎。 which means (subject) have a chance (to do sth). Here is an example when it is used in a conversation:

(A):佢好似要贏咁啵(他好像能贏)(it seems like he's going to win) side note: 咁啵 is a Cantonese ending particle

(B):咦!好似有啲機喎。(欸,好像有點機會哦。)((surprised), there's a chance(for him to win).) Note that using 機會 in above cases is perfectly fine in Cantonese.

  1. It means hand. The whole sentence loosely translated to your hands(you) will leave tomorrow.

  2. It means 記憶. Changing the order to 憶記 is simply for what we called 入詞(putting/matching the lyrics into the melody). And we will not use 憶記 in Cantonese, unlike 機 as 機會.

  3. It is common for Hong Kong lyricist to use Cantonese expressions/word orders in Cantonese songs. Actually, sometimes songs use Cantonese throughout the song(example:半斤八兩 by Sam Hui). For 'using Cantonese' I mean using 口語(spoken language, how we speak in daily life). Many Cantonese songs use 書面語 (written language, how we write, which can be understood by Mandarin speakers, as it is basically written Chinese) may or may not with minor tweaks. I think these minor tweaks that follow Cantonese word orders/use Cantonese expressions are where you find the awkwardness. And of course, some words may be changed or deleted in order to 入詞, so it may be that case as well.

  1. It should be plane. I think the main reason it's not using 飞机 is that 飞机 does not fit the melody well. And compare to 机, 飞机 seems to be too straight forward that is not beautiful enough.

  2. I think it simply means hand, the leaving of his love's hand just means the leaving of his love.

  3. Sorry I'm not from Guangdong or province that speaks Cantonese, but when I saw this word 忆记, I'll view it as 记忆 memory.

  4. I heard both Cantonese songs and mandarin songs, the situation you talked about occurs widely. Chinese prefer to express feelings not that straight forward, so using sentences that you may find awkward is the need of beauty. Usually we find ancient Chinese has a unique charm because its express is concise yet its meaning is abundant, and many modern songs are following that kind of beauty. Maybe this trend is resulting in your difficulty of understanding.


Just my personal interpretation as songs are artistic expressions which very often take literary liberties liberally.

I do agree that #(1) is tricky and could be interpreted both ways, as either 飞机 or 机会, with cogent arguments available for both.

(1) 机, in my view, here means 飞机, because it ties in well with the preceding line -- 但要走 总要飞......不管有没有机

Basically the line means "had to get away, need to fly, whether or not there is an airplane, (available)", to show the urgency to get away as quickly as possible.

I could see that 机会 may well be intended as it would then read -- "had to get away, need to fly, whether or not there is any chance, (of doing so)"

But I opt for "airplane" because of 总要飞, "need to fly", and so "an airplane is needed, whether one is available or not", which makes better contextual sense than "any chance"

Also, the words 不管, meaning "not caring / in spite of", reinforces the idea of wanting to catch an airplane, not caring whether one is actually available or not from the following line 有没有机

Finally, in normal everyday speech, the Cantonese very often use just one word 机 to mean an airplane, (in a proper context of course), and not often do you hear just 机 to mean 机会.

I would have argued that 机会 is intended if the sentence reads:-

但要走, 道别不可再等你, 不管有没有机(会)

BTW, 飞 & 机 rhymes in Cantonese, though they don't in Mandarin.

(2) 给我体贴入微 但你手 如明日便要远离 I think it is a question of parsing it correctly.

If the sentence in question is parsed as 但你手如明日便要远离, it makes perfect sense, as it reads "...but your hands are as far away as tomorrow", which ties in well with the previous line, 给我体贴入微, (be a bit considerate to me), so that the whole sentence, 给我体贴入微 但你手 如明日便要远离 would now read -- "be a bit considerate to me, but your hands are as far away as tomorrow", meaning that it is not possible for you to show me any considerate behavior because your "hands" are as far away as tomorrow"

(3) 留下共我曾愉快的忆记 -- "Remaining with me would be happy memories"

忆记 means "memories"; a noun; so you have good memories / bad memories.

记忆 means "the memory", i.e. "memory" as the faculty of the brain to remember / recall past events; a technical usage of the term.

In today's Computer Technology speak, we could say 忆记 are the stored memories in the mind, and 记忆 the hardware of the brain that handles the process of storing memories.

  • (劉卓輝, 英語:Gene Lau,香港填詞人) 填詞人 could complete the Cantonese song but without writing the Cantonese lyric in complete sentences Jun 13, 2022 at 2:01

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