Can I say “伤害人” in terms of hurting someone emotionally? Or is there another, better, way of saying this?

For example, I'd like to say


Is that a proper usage?

  • yes, we can use the word for this scenario. Oct 16, 2014 at 2:52

7 Answers 7


Not a language scholar so may be I am wrong on this, but the "伤害" is probably more often used in terms of hurting someone emotional than physically.

Example:in 那英's famous song "一笑而过“ there is one line reads "你伤害了我,还一笑而过". As the song is probably not about domestic violence, yes, it is perfectly proper to use "伤害" in this way you described.

It is actually uncommon to see people use 伤害 as equivalent to physically "hurt" someone. It is too formal, a little awkward, and sounds pretty harsh.

伤害 can be used as a noun as the above answer has mentioned the phrase "生理伤害". In this usage it sounds very formal. So most likely it is used in a legal or medical document.

The word 伤 alone can be used as a consequence of some action. For example, 他把我打伤了 (He hit me and I am hurt/injured as a result).

The sentence you gave is good and can definitely be understand. But it may help to change the wording a little bit. For example, although can be inferred, the sentence do not have a subject. You can say 最后为了伤害他,他/她/name 还把这个秘密告诉了其他家人。

其他家人 sounds a little strange and unspecific. If it is one or two people, you can list them instead (to make the story more convincing and interesting): 他还把这个秘密告诉了 爸/妈/爸妈/奶奶. If it is a lot of people in the family, you can say 他还把这个秘密告诉了 全家所有人. Technically, 告诉了全家 is good enough and it may not be literally every member of the family. But usually you would add 所有人 to emphasize (and the listener/reader would know that 所有人 is most likely not literal here). There is no need to use 其他 as it is implied. (As you can see that us Chinese are not very rigorous when it comes to language. You are generally considered a better writer if you could use less words/characters to convey the same meaning.)

Source: native speaker.


伤害 is used in both situations because there is no intrinsic difference between emotional injuries and physical injuries. Both are chemical, physical reactions.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress can often cause worse damage than, say, clubbing someone in the forehead. A skillful abuser, once learned what touches the victim's nerve, can totally ruin the victim's life by simply uttering a few seemingly innocent words. After cousin Bette related to Adeline some seemingly innocent news, Lady Adeline was afflicted by a constant quivering of the head for the rest of her life.(See Balzac Cousin Bette)


Sounds perfectly idiomatic to me. One of the definitions 漢典 gives is

(2) [wound;injure;damage;prejudice]∶使在精神或感情上受损伤

(to hurt someone mentally or emotionally).


Your meaning would be understood from context; you're utilizing the secret to cause harm, and abstract concepts typically do not cause physical harm. Were you to pick up a chair 把椅子 you could clarify the harm as physical 生理伤害.

Have you considered using to convey the meaning of "bringing about" his injury?


Finally, telling this secret to his other family members will lead to his injury.


The more I think about this, the more I dislike the use of here. It feels excessive. How about this:

最后 把 秘密 告诉 其他的家人 来 伤害他。

  • I'm not convinced that your reformulation sounds more idiomatic. The original, which I would improve with a few auxiliary particles: 最後還為了傷害他而把秘密告訴了其他家人 (apologies for traditional orthography) is much better than using 來傷害他. I would usually use 來 in conjunction with 用 to convey purpose: 我準備用這個機會來完成長期以來的心願 (I plan to use this opportunity to fulfill a longstanding wish).
    – Marc
    Oct 9, 2014 at 8:05

Yes 伤害 can be used on emotions and I think your example makes sense


Yes it's completely right. Emotions can be damaged/hurt too.

Background: Native speaker


I agree with all the other answers. However, I tend to say no to the question. "伤" can applied to both physical injury and emotional damage, but "害" has the connotation of "murder" or "planned damage." It is acceptable to say "伤害感情" (hurt our feelings), but I would just use phrases like "伤了我的心" (broke my heart) or "伤感情."

Background: native speaker, lived in China until three years ago, regularly speak Chinese at home.

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