I have heard 不三不四 pronounced (m sarm m sei) in Cantonese. I wonder if Mandarin speakers use this term and in what context? When I asked, someone they supposed that Mandarin speakers might prefer to use something like


Which is correct and could anyone supply sample context? Is there a deeper meaning other than the literal sense?

Some one said the phrase is a bit degrading.

1 Answer 1


不三不四 is a perfectly acceptable term in Mandarin



1 指人 shady


make friends with dubious characters


2 指言词 neither one thing nor the other


make frivolous remarks

I think you might be mistaking 不知说谓 for 不知所谓 which 汉语大辞典 defines as:

不知道该怎么办, 犹言无计可施。

不三不四 is definitely better though!

  • You mentioned that one is definitely better than the other. Could you explain why? Also because I do not want to misuse phrases could you explain the context in which the phrases should be used (i.e. when should I use the phrase, would it be demeaning?)
    – Tommie C.
    Aug 23, 2014 at 16:18
  • 1
    不知所谓 is pretty much never used, I wouldn't even try learning it if I were you. 不三不四 doesn't have any un-demeaning parts...anytime you use it will be negative and demeaning.
    – Mou某
    Aug 23, 2014 at 16:37
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    Cantonese speakers still say 不知所谓. Its equivalence in Mandarin should be 不知所云 or 不知道说的是什么 which means nobody understands what you said and even you don't know what you've said.
    – wind rose
    Aug 25, 2014 at 5:40

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