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I have heard a range of different terms meaning 'indecisive' in Chinese - I'm not sure if they were in dialect, or there are several options for saying it in Mandarin, and so I'm curious to learn what expression native speakers use to say indecisive.

Can someone tell me what is the most common expression people use to say 'indecisive'? Is there one term that is more or less right than another?

  • What are the terms you know? – fefe Jan 20 '12 at 0:55
  • The most common ones I have heard are 犹豫不决 and 磨, although I have heard several different answers before. – Ciaocibai Jan 20 '12 at 1:05
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I find two meanings of "indecisive" in the dictionary.

  1. To hover between different choices and can't make a decision in a short while.
  2. Not specified, undefined.

I think you are asking a word for the first meaning, and then the words are:

犹豫不决
优柔寡断
没主见*
徘徊不定
犹豫

There are some other words related to this meaning, in different contexts. Besides, I think you are talking about "磨蹭" by "磨(it may mean the same in some dialects)" in your comment. "磨蹭“ is different. It's used to say someone intends to do something in a very slow process, thought he is able to do better or faster. I know the English words "to loaf" and "to linger" for "磨蹭".

Edit: To tell the difference.

You can use "优柔寡断" and “没主见" as an adjective to modify a man or his character, while other words can't be used in this case. You can use "徘徊不定","犹豫","踌躇"(also "优柔寡断" and “没主见"),etc. when talking about something, and you need to remember some patterns to express such a meaning.
Example sentences to help me explain:

他的性格优柔寡断. He has an indecisive character.
他是个没主见的人。 He is indecisive.
他在提名谁做总经理的事上徘徊不定=他在提名谁做总经理的事上犹豫不决。 He is indecisive to nominate who as general mangager.
我犹豫要不要接受他的邀请。I am indecisive to accept his invitation or not.
别犹豫了!Don't be indecisive! (make your decision as soon as possible!)

  • 没主见 more precisely means "not have one's own opinion, one's opinion is easily to be swayed by someone else.", while other words don't express the sense of "easily to be swayed".
  • I was after the first meaning - what is the difference between all of the words you listed? When should I use each different expression? – Ciaocibai Jan 24 '12 at 0:30
  • I am back to my hometown,and I can't access to the internet conveniently.I am viewing the posts on my phone.I will edit my answer once I am on the line on my laptop. – Huang Jan 24 '12 at 1:01
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I think 优柔寡断 is the word you are looking for.

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A lot of the terms listed by Huang are very rarely used. 犹豫不决 and 犹豫 are by far the most common ones, and express the meaning of "indecisive" very directly.

1

A more formal written word is 踌躇不前

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I don't know anything about 磨. :(

Note that those terms listed by Huang refer to a state instead of describing someone's characteristics. They have some subtle differences between the states described by them. I'll let Huang to explain the differences between the 4 character terms. 没主见 basically means "no opinion".

I'd say "他常常都犹豫不决" or "他常常都不能决定的" to refer to someone's characteristics.

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