Questions tagged [idioms]

Questions related to idioms, maxims, sayings, and other expressions consisting of a combination of words that has an indirect, figurative meaning.

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22
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3answers
30k views

What is the exact meaning of 吃豆腐, and where does the expression come from?

I'm not talking about eating tofu, but the expression that means something more like taking advantage of someone. What exactly does 吃豆腐 mean, and where does this expression come from?
15
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3answers
994 views

What is the meaning of 当仁不让?

I was browsing the Chinese internet looking for a bank that supports Mac OS when I came across this site. They list a range of different banks under a range of different headings, the first of which ...
13
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8answers
2k views

How to translate: 人是铁,饭是钢,一顿不吃烦得慌. What is the logic?

人是铁,饭是钢,一顿不吃烦得慌 I can not really figure out to translate this sentence. I guess it basically means that not eating is a bad thing. The first sentences - do they indicate that "iron" and "steel" ...
12
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4answers
1k views

Why are 成语 (idioms) four characters long? Are there 成语 with more or less than four characters?

I really enjoying learning 成语 (chéng yǔ) in Chinese, and I'm curious to know why they are often or always four characters long? Where does this tradition stem from? And are there 成语 with more or ...
11
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5answers
3k views

How to say “giving someone the benefit of the doubt” in Chinese?

This expression connotes that one is willing to not insist on accusing someone of a mistake despite most evidence pointing to that someone as being responsible. As in a legal proceeding where the jury ...
9
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3answers
284 views

Pinyin of 車 in idioms

In Cantonese, 車 has two pronunciations: [ce1] and [geoi1]. In Mandarin, 車 also has two different pinyin: [che1] and [ju1]. [ce1] corresponds to [che1]. [geoi1] corresponds to [ju1]. In most idioms,...
8
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10answers
903 views

What is the Chinese equivalent of English idiom “As if!”?

The English idiom "as if!" is used to express the speakers rejection that something is possible: A: "In a few years I'll be driving a Ferrari." B: "As if you'll ever have a Ferrari!" Here, B, ...
8
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6answers
962 views

Are there any online resources for learning Chinese 4-character idioms

I'm interested particularly in the 4-character idioms/chengyu's. Some that I've learnt recently: 独一无二 - unique 由此可见 - this shows that 一般来说 - generally speaking I've realised they come in really ...
7
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3answers
2k views

How to Say the “something” in the phrase “Do something”

I was trying to explain the meaning of the phrase "hang out" to a Chinese friend, and the first thing that came to mind was 一起做什么了, with me intending 什么了 to mean "something". He seemed to understand ...
7
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3answers
445 views

冰雪聪明… only for girls?

Is the expression 冰雪聪明 (bīng xuě cōng míng) really only used for girls? The literal translation is "snow smart" and I understand it means something along the lines of "extremely smart" but the times I'...
7
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2answers
274 views

The question is regarding 成语-挟怨报复

I have a question: 成语-挟怨报复-可以用在下面情形吗? 有一位前辈的报告写错了。 我善意指正他。 后来,我的报告他故意找问题。 下面这些可以吗? 一朝权在手 便把令来行 心胸狭窄 倚势挟权 倚老卖老 窃弄威权 哪一个最好?
7
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3answers
274 views

The question is about 成语-虚有其表

I have a question: 成语-虚有其表-可以用在下面情形吗? 有一个人的报告写的很好看,很漂亮,可内容都错了。 有没有其他的成语? Any suggestion?
6
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3answers
605 views

Is 不 A 不 B a grammatical structure like 又 A 又 B?

I ran across 不知不觉 the other day. If I use MDBG to look up c:不*不* I see there are many idioms with that format. Can I use it with any verbs (?) or is it only part of fixed expressions?
6
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2answers
175 views

Should names in idiomatic expressions be capitalised?

As the title indicates, I'd like to know the proper way of writing Pinyin for idiomatic expressions that contain names. Should those names be capitalised? Some dictionaries say that they should (Pleco ...
6
votes
1answer
419 views

What is the etymology of 放我一马?

I've heard this a couple times now and most recently in a movie "钢的琴". It's an idiom that means "cut me some slack"; "let me off the hook". I couldn't make sense of the Baidu encyclopedia so I'm ...
5
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7answers
1k views

What does 尽信书不如无书 mean?

After pointing out the many bugs in an online Chinese "how to give a presentation in English" webpage, one of my colleagues wrote this on WeChat: 尽信书不如无书 Jìn xìn shū bùrú wú shū Question: What ...
5
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3answers
2k views

What does 狗改不了吃屎 mean?

What does 狗改不了吃屎 mean? I think it is a proverb. Something do to with god? In my research, is it similar to 江山易改,本性难移?
5
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6answers
302 views

Chinese version of the idiom “The word on the street”

"The word on the street" is an English idiom that basically means "rumors". The word on the street is that Bob's going to be fired. I was wondering if there was a similar Chinese idiom.
5
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6answers
2k views

How to say “as you wish” in Chinese

I want to know what to say in the following scenario: I am pushing someone for his own good, and he is not doing what I want, so I would then say to him "Okay, as you wish." How can I express this in ...
5
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1answer
349 views

Chinese Chengyu (Idiom): Refute somebody with his own argument

Is there a Chinese Idiom for "Refute somebody with his own argument"? I thought this is not quite the same as "self-contradictory" 自相矛盾. Thank you.
5
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5answers
951 views

Variants of 将在外,君命有所不受?

There seems to be multiple versions of this idiom, with slightly different characters: Baidu: 将在外,君命有所不受 汉典: 将在军,君命有所不受 And a big bunch of variants: 将在外,军令有所不受 将在外,军令有所不从 将在外,君令有所不受 将在外,...
5
votes
1answer
87 views

Selling it as soon as you've bought it — Chinese expression

In college, I had just started a physics class in relativity and I was so excited that I began explaining everything I had learned to my Taiwanese roommate. Perhaps my tone was a bit too arrogant or ...
5
votes
4answers
645 views

How you say… I feel good after finally getting closure

I'm looking for an idiom that describes feeling better after getting closure/some explanation/clarity on a certain issue... whether breaking up with significant other and having a final face-to-face......
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does 拉倒 mean “forget about it”?

拉倒 is a word that can mean "forget about it". For example: 鲁迅 《华盖集续编·马上支日记》:“现在这书既然借不到,只好拉倒了。” This seems strange though, because 拉倒 literally means "to pull over". What is the etymology of this ...
5
votes
1answer
157 views

给我站住: Idiom or common meaning

给我站住 I assume this means something like "wait for me!". But I still have a couple of questions. Google translate gives the meaning "Nothing to say" which implies that 给我站住 may be an idiom. If 给我站住 ...
5
votes
1answer
161 views

What does “杀牛”mean in this context?

In the story I'm reading for class, a man meets a woman online and she asks him what sign he's born under (属什么). He says 牛, and she says "我是杀牛的." He recounts, "就这么两句话一下子就把我打动了." So they arrange to ...
4
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5answers
368 views

Meaning of 翼 in 不翼而飞

The Chinese idiom " 不翼而飞" contains the character 翼 meaning wings, but how could one fly without wings? Here 不翼 = 无翼 ? I'm confused. I am aware of the fact that the saying means "vanish into the air ...
4
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3answers
1k views

Translating the idiom “thinking outside the box”

I normally hate overused catchphrases in English, like "paradigm shift" and "out of the box thinking". But I was recently chatting (in Chinese) with a friend about an earlier situation in which ...
4
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3answers
264 views

How did 马马虎虎 come to mean so-so?

Why does the above phrase (马马虎虎- lit. Horse horse tiger tiger) mean so-so or moderate? Curious as to how animals can represent expressions
4
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2answers
2k views

Are there online resources for learning the Chongqing dialect?

I'd like to learn the Chongqing dialect or chongqinghua. If anyone can help me to find resources like phrasebooks, differences with putonghua, or any article on this topic, I would be thankful.
4
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3answers
1k views

What does 骑在 someone's 头上 mean?

I saw this on Jukuu.com: 我并不否认,你姐姐老是象个暴君似的骑在我们头上。 I don't deny that your sister comes the mogul over us, now and then. Wǒ bìng bù fǒurèn, nǐ jiějiě lǎo shì xiàng gè bàojūn shì de qí zài wǒmen ...
4
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3answers
365 views

Thoughts on the expression 腦洞大開?

腦洞大開 (Simplified: 脑洞大开) seems to be a phrase that's making its rounds in Sinophone online communities (a Google search may be illuminating), although its precise meaning as of yet still eludes me. It ...
4
votes
2answers
139 views

How to say “it's a function of …” in Chinese?

The algebra analogy "it's a function of X" seems commonly used in daily conversations in English but it's rare to say "X是Y的函数" in non-mathematics context in Chinese. What would be an idiomatic ...
4
votes
1answer
311 views

Is there a Chinese idiom that involves a “Creator”?

Background This recently retracted article on the scientific journal PlosOne was retracted (amongst other reasons) due to concerns that the authors were adherents to the pseudoscientific theory of "...
4
votes
1answer
261 views

What does 含饴弄孙 mean?

What does 含饴弄孙 mean? What's its origin, what sort of contexts is it usually used in and also how popular an idiom is it? It does not seem to appear in any regular Chinese-English dictionary I've ...
4
votes
2answers
286 views

What are these “riddle jokes”?

In Chinese there are these jokes which are delivered as a small riddle followed by the answer. They are often used humorously, with the answer used as an insult. Here are some examples: 哑巴吃黄莲/有苦说不出 ...
4
votes
4answers
199 views

Plural marker 们 in 哥们(儿)

Can someone explain why 们 is used in the word 哥们 to mean buddy/dude, even if it's referred to a single person? Would it be possible to add 们 to any other family name, like 妈们,姐们,爸爸们 etc.? And if ...
3
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5answers
387 views

Meaning of 他急红了眼?

I've heard that expression while I was in Beijing, and I can't find the translation when I scroll the Internet. Do you know what it means?
3
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2answers
215 views

Why it is called 没大没小?

It is a commonly used idiom that means rude; no respect for one's elders. However, I wonder why it is called 没大没小. I would like to know its origin.
3
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4answers
1k views

How to translate 掩耳盗铃 into English?

Preferably an idiom just as picturesque and succinct. Thanks. Here's the original meaning: The expression 掩耳盗铃 comes from a story about a person who decided to steal a bell. However, the bell ...
3
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2answers
308 views

“Speak Greek” in Chinese

In English, when someone says something incomprehensible, one can say they "spoke Greek". In Italian, the equivalente is "parlare Arabo" (lit. speak Arabic). What about Chinese? Is there a similar ...
3
votes
1answer
986 views

What does 七年之痒 mean?

I looked it up and something about the Seven Year Itch but I'm kind confused. Does it have any deep meaning in Chinese culture?
3
votes
1answer
4k views

Something like “turning lemons into lemonade”

Is there a Chinese saying roughly equivalent in meaning to "turning lemons into lemonade"? From Wikipedia, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" is a proverbial phrase used to encourage ...
3
votes
2answers
366 views

Chinese idiom to describe a long line

What is the idiom to describe a really long line of people (waiting in line to buy tickets, for example)? I know one of the words is 龙. I tried googling it, but couldn't find it.
3
votes
1answer
258 views

Meaning of 爱惜花草树木

I'm trying to get the meaning of the following expression: 爱惜花草树木. A Chinese friend told me that it's something like "It's so corny", but I'm having a hard time finding an explanation online. I've ...
3
votes
1answer
436 views

What is an idiom that describes aiming for high achievement or success but not forgetting one's roots?

What is an idiom/phrase/saying that describes aiming for high achievement or success but not forgetting one's roots? Something like 展翅高飞 and 饮水思源 combined
3
votes
3answers
830 views

How to use 如 to make comparisons or analogies

I see this come up sometimes in idioms, and I find it easy to understand but not easy to use(1) Is it used to spoken comparisons or analogies? Or is it only for literary, formal, fixed expression? If ...
3
votes
3answers
181 views

怎么用草船借箭这个成语 how/when to use 草船借箭

When and how do we use the idiom 草船借箭? I know where the story comes from — 《三国演义》— and I know the meaning. But I'm still not really clear in what situation I'd say this.
3
votes
6answers
243 views

How to translate “For all you know”? [duplicate]

What are the best ways to translate For all you know? For example: For all you know, she could be lying to you. In response to a friend getting upset that her friend isn't picking up her ...
2
votes
5answers
1k views

What is the 成语 for “face like buddha, heart like scorpion”?

I was watching Raise the Red Lantern (which is an excellent movie by the way) and saw this phrase come up on the subtitles, but wasn't able to catch what the actual Mandarin behind it was. Does anyone ...