Chinese Idioms

#108 Chinese Idioms


Chinese idioms or 成语 are 4 letter phrases (sometimes they would be longer) that express meanings more conveniently. English has idioms too, for example the expression "raining cats and dogs". While it is not a must to learn idioms right from the start at a Beginner level, it is great to know some to use in daily conversions. Using idioms can help your sentences become much more animated like that of a native speaker. So here are some commonly used idioms to help you start off!


1. 说曹操, 曹操就到 (shuō cáocāo, cáocāo jiù dào) - Speak of the devil

This idiom originated from "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". Cao Cao is the leader of the Wei State during China's Three Kingdom period and the vilian in the novel. Hence, he replaced the 'devil' in the English idiom and this directly translates to "speaking of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao arrives".


2. 一举两得 (yī jǔ liǎng dé) - one move, two gains

You could probably guess the meaning of this idiom from the English direct translation. It means to resolve two matters with one action. Some other Chinese idioms that have the same meanings include 一石二鸟 (killing two birds with one stone),一箭双雕 (kill two eagles with one arrow).


3. 马马虎虎 (mǎ mǎ hǔ hǔ) - careless; sloppy

马and虎means horse and tiger in Chinese but this idiom does not translate to horse horse tiger tiger (lol!) 马虎means clumsy and making the word double simply refers to one being careless and sloppy with their work, attitude or personality.


4. 顺其自然 (shùn qí zìrán) - let nature takes it course

顺means smooth or to let it be while 自然means nature, combined together they mean to let things happen naturally and not intervene. It is often use to comfort someone when things don't go their way or when they are feeling bummed.


5. 半途而废 (bàn tú'ér fèi) - give up halfway

半途means halfway point and 废means to demolish or waste. Hence, this idioms means to waste your efforts and give up halfway when achieving something. You should never 半途而废 while learning Chinese!


6. 倾盆大雨 (qīng pén dà yǔ) - raining cats and dogs

盆means bucket and hence this idioms paints a picture: the rain is so heavy that it looks like pouring water our of a bucket. Besides using this idiom to describe heavy rain, you can also simply say 下大雨 or 雨下的很大.


7. 一见钟情 (yī jiàn zhōng qíng) - love at first sight

一means first or once; 见means to see or to meet and 钟情means fall in love, combined together and you get falling in love when meeting for the first time. But this idiom can be used not only on people but physical objects or food as well. For example you can say 我对炸鸡一见钟情 - It was love at first sight with fried chicken (:

Of course, there are much more idioms that can be used in daily life, business settings or when joking around with friends. They are short, sweet and to the point, so much fun to use and makes speaking more natural!