CC-CEDICT 眼红 (yǎn​hóng​) to covet / envious / jealous / green with envy / infuriated / furious

The motivation for this question is the following 语病 in the HSK6 Standard Course textbook (page 30; photo of original):


The correction we're meant to make is changing 眼红 to 羡慕 (I changed it to 嫉妒 which may be an alternative). In fact, I was surprised for find that 眼红 (when used as a verb) can take objects at all. Hence...

Question: What objects can 眼红 take when used as a verb?

The grammar in theory is [sb.] + 眼红 + [sth.], but it seems 眼红 can only take on a select few objects.

I think these are correct:

  • 学生眼红朋友的成绩。 (covet sb.'s grades)
    我眼红大明星的名气。 (covet sb.'s fame)
    小王眼红老师的成语知识。 (covet sb.'s knowledge)
    我眼红他简单的生活方式。 (covet sb.'s lifestyle)
    我眼红他积极的性生活。 (covet sb.'s sex life)

    Here the object is a specific non-concrete noun, belonging to another person.

  • 我眼红财富。 (covet wealth)
    小李眼红成功。 (covet success)
    他眼红名利。 (covet fame and fortune)
    大家都眼红幸福。 (covet happiness)

    Here the object is a general concept.

Beyond this, I'm not quite sure. In particular, I'm uncertain about whether or not 眼红 + [sb.] works, such as in 眼红他美丽的女朋友 ("covet his beautiful girlfriend") and 眼红他 ("covet him"). Maybe on of The Ten Commandments "You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife" could be 不可眼红你邻居的妻子. And there may be other things I've missed.

I discussed this with ChatGPT, but I think it has the same problem as me: it's either learning from examples on the Internet which can be wrong or misleading, or are learning from overly prescriptivist claims in textbooks.

  • 羡慕, though translated as "envy", has no negativity attached, (more of being happy for another's good fortune), unlike the English equivalent which is actually one of the 7 Biblical deadly sins. But 眼红 has very definite negativity attached, something like "jealousy on steroids", with some hidden ill will involved. I've always advised non-Chinese speakers not to use these terms interchangeably. Commented Jan 5 at 2:21

2 Answers 2


See: http://bcc.blcu.edu.cn/zh/search/1/%E7%9C%BC%E7%BA%A2

First it can take physical objects as object:



It can also take people as object:



Finally, it can take topic-comment clauses as object:



The reason 眼红 is considered wrong in "我很眼红我的朋友们" is that it is considered morally incorrect. 嫉妒 has a similar connotation. They sound like if you were given a chance to prevent your friends from going skiing, you would do it.

羡慕 does not have this connotation. It simply means you feel bad about not being able to go skiing.

  • Thanks, that's incredibly helpful. In English, these words ("jealous", "envy", "covet") are often used hyperbolically to light-hardheartedly joke about oneself. So something like "I'm jealous of my friends" (perhaps accompanied with a smiley face or a "haha") wouldn't be taken literally. It seems the Chinese words (眼红, 嫉妒) are more loaded and literal than English.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Jan 4 at 23:16
  • @becky 李蓓 This may also be a regional thing in english. Its not impossible to joke with these words where I am from, but the default is definitely morally negative. Instead my area would use something like "wish" to show a more nuetral stance (^ω^)
    – zagrycha
    Commented Jan 5 at 1:40

I think you should not mix up covet, envy, envious, jealous, jealousy. Randomly translating 眼红 this way will only cause problems

眼红: 是一句汉语词汇,指嫉妒并憎恨。
眼红: is a phrase in Chinese vocabulary, (it) refers to envy and hatred

A typical usage example: That guy who hates the rich is completely envious of rich people.

嫉妒: 因人胜过自己而产生的忌恨心理
嫉妒: cause a person to be overwhelmed and produce a hate mentality

羡慕: 看见别人有某种长处、好处或有利条件而希望自己也有。
羡慕: seeing others who have certain strong points, advantages or advantageous conditions and wish the same for yourself.

covet: "to desire or wish for inordinately or without regard for the rights of others," 
envy: envious, having hatred or ill-will," from invidere "to envy, hate," earlier "look at (with malice), cast an evil eye upon,"

Jealousy is the malign feeling which is often had toward a rival, or possible rival, for the possession of that which we greatly desire, as in love or ambition. Envy is a similar feeling toward one, whether rival or not, who already possesses that which we greatly desire. Jealousy is enmity prompted by fear; envy is enmity prompted by covetousness. [Century Dictionary]

Most of the words for 'envy' ... had from the outset a hostile force, based on 'look at' (with malice), 'not love,' etc. Conversely, most of those which became distinctive terms for 'jealousy' were originally used also in a good sense, 'zeal, emulation.' [Buck, pp.1138-9]

For covet try: 贪求 or 觊觎

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