People practice writing Chinese at Reddit's r/WriteStreakCN, with one example here:


A user, who I believe is a native-Chinese speaker, changed this to:


I think 生活的压力很低 is grammatically correct, so my impression is that this edit may be based more on experience, and that 生活的压力小 sounds more natural to native ears. My Googling suggests that 压力……高/低 better refers to physical properties (like air pressure), whereas 压力……大/小 is better for emotional stress, so maybe this is the reason for the edit, but I'm not sure.

(In English we say "high pressure" and "low pressure", and definitely not "big pressure" and "small pressure".)

Question: Why did a native speaker change 生活的压力很低 to 生活的压力小?

  • You can even say 生活的压力很少, to indicate you seldom receive stress making living, and 生活的压力很多 to indicate pressure(s?) are from multiple sources.
    – imkzh
    Oct 30, 2022 at 9:13

7 Answers 7


压力 is "pressure", in this case, it literally means "force/weight/a burden on the person". The proper measure terms for force are big(大) and small(小).

Note that when "pressure" is caused by floatable substances, such as air(氣壓), water(水壓), electricity(電壓), and blood pressure(血壓), then high(高) and low(低) are the proper measure terms.


高低 in 压力高低 is more literal, for example, the measurement number on a barometer describes the degree of pressure with "high or low"

大小 in 压力大小 is more metaphorical, and describes the degree of pressure with "severe or mild"

Since 大小 is more metaphorical, we use it in a metaphorical way more. for example, we usually say 生活压力大 instead of 生活压力高; On the other hand, we usually say 水压很高 instead of 水压很大 because there are devices that measure water pressure with high or low

Of course, literal terms are used metaphorically, therefore 高 in 生活压力高 can also be used metaphorically

Why did a native speaker change 生活的压力很低 to 生活的压力小?

The stress of life is so real, it feels like it is measurable by measuring devices like air temperature, therefore, we can say 生活的压力很高/低; However, 生活的压力很大 is more common way to state it because 大/小 is more metaphorical (treat 'stress/ pressure' as not measurable)


Quote:- "My Googling suggests that 压力……高/低 better refers to physical properties (like air pressure), whereas 压力……大/小 is better for emotional stress, so maybe this is the reason for the edit...."

Mr. Google is absolutely correct.

As other commentators have said, i.e.,

  1. when "pressure" has a measurable property / quantity, it is 高/低, like "high blood pressure", 高血压, and never 大血压 or "big blood pressure"

  2. when "pressure" is not a measurable property / quantity, like emotional stress, as in the "pressures of life or work", it is 大/小.

Even in English we say, "He faces a lot of pressure in his line of work", "a lot" being of a non-measurable, amorphous quantity, akin to "big, huge, gigantic / small, little, tiny"

  • In this situation, we have to deal with certain particular idiosyncrasies of cross-references in language usages, where one language may not cross-fit exactly into another. In the example of "work pressure", it is also correct to say, in English, "He has a high-pressured job", and not a "big pressured job" It is in translation to Chinese that care is needed. Oct 30, 2022 at 7:57

I believe the reason might be when we say something to describe "压力", we assume it to be a "force" by default, thus "大" and "小" are more appropriate. e.g. "他承受的生活压力很大。"

But when we put a single "压" behind some things, it's interpreted as "pressure", then "高" and "低" are more appropriate.


Well... that's more or less the formal presentation v.s. oral presentation.

Since "大/小" is basically representing any measurable value or comparable properties' big (high) or small (low), when people don't bother to look for an accurate presentation, they simply use whatever jump in their mind first/fast/easiest.

Since you are learning or understanding Chinese to this level, you must also aware of Chinese is not an language for accuracy in general, that's is totally understandable.

On the other hand, it is not wrong to use "高/低" at all.


If the pressure can be measured into a number like 10kPa, use gao/di. If it is just a general idea, use da/xiao.


Meet the word 压强, “单位面积所受力”, “the force applied per unit area”. It's a evaluated physics value, so 高低 is used for it. 压 in 气压/水压 refers to 压强.

压力 literally refers to “the pressing force” in 生活压力, so 大小 is used.

As a certain object usually has the constant area that force apply, 压强 and 压力 are proportional on it, so one may refer to the other in some context. For example, 压力 refers to 压强 in 锅炉压力太高了.

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