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25 Common Chinese Idioms You Should Know - Part 2

TANNER BRADEN | MARCH 24, 2022

In our previous blogpost, 25 Common Chinese Idioms You Should Know - Part 1 , we introduced 5 成语 (chéng yǔ) - Chinese idioms - that we hope you enjoyed learning and have already found to be useful!

In this blogpost you'll find 5 more fun and frequently used Chinese idioms, taught and explained in long-form video, short-form video, image and text for your learning convenience!



6

xiǎo xīn yì yì

小心翼翼

with great care, very cautious

Characters

  • 小 (xiǎo) - small
  • 心 (xīn) - heart
  • 翼 (yì) - wing (Long ago, Chinese speakers would double it, saying 翼翼 (yì yì), and it meant "respectful and serious.")

Tips

小心翼翼 (xiǎo xīn yì yì) can be used to describe a person's actions, character or general way of doing things.

Examples

You're talking about when you first held your newborn baby and you say:

wǒ xiǎo xīn yì yì de bào zhe bǎo bao hěn dān xīn huì shāng dào tā

我小心翼翼地抱着宝宝,很担心会伤到他。

I held the baby with great care, worried that I might hurt him.

You have a friend that is always overly cautious and you say:

tā zuò shì zǒng shì xiǎo xīn yì yì de yīn cǐ yě cuò guò le bù shǎo hǎo jī huì

他做事总是小心翼翼的,因此也错过了不少好机会。

He's always so cautious, and because of it he's missed quite a few good opportunities.


7

ài bú shì shǒu

爱不释手

to love something too much to part with it

Characters

  • 爱 (ài) - to love
  • 不 (bù) - not
  • 释 (shì) - to release or let go
  • 手 (shǒu) - hand

Tips

There are two notable limitations to this 成语 (chéng yǔ). First, 爱不释手 (ài bú shì shǒu) is NOT used to talk about people. So if you're talking about how much you love your girlfriend, you wouldn't use 爱不释手 (ài bú shì shǒu). And second, it DOES need to be something small enough to carry. So you CAN'T use 爱不释手 (ài bú shì shǒu) to talk about your new house or car, but you CAN use it to talk about the new painting you just bought for your living room.

Examples

You give your son a super cool toy that he loves and takes around with him everywhere. You could say:

ér zi duì wǒ sòng tā de wán jù ài bú shì shǒu

儿子对我送他的玩具爱不释手!

My son loves the toy I gave him so much he won't put it down!

You buy a new painting for your house that you love would never want to sell or give away. You can say:

wǒ chāo xǐ huan zhè fú xīn mǎi de huà jiǎn zhí shì aì bú shì shǒu

我超喜欢这幅新买的画,简直是爱不释手!

I really like this new painting I bought, I simply can't part with it!


8

pò bù jí dài

迫不及待

can't wait

Characters

  • 迫 (pò) - urgent
  • 不 (bù) - not
  • 及 (jí) - in time for
  • 待 (dài) - to wait

Tips

迫不及待 (pò bù jí dài) is used to describe when one is too impatient or excited to wait for something.

Examples

An old friend that you haven't seen in a long time is coming to visit tomorrow, and you say:

wǒ dōu pò bù jí dài de xiǎng yào mǎ shàng jiàn dào tā le

我都迫不及待地想要马上见到他了!

I can't wait to see him!

You're really excited about the new smartphone model that is going to be released soon, and you say:

wǒ dōu pò bù jí dài de xiǎng huàn xīn shǒu jī le

我都迫不及待地想换新手机了!

I can't wait to switch to the new phone!


9

zhī zú cháng lè

知足常乐

contentment is happiness

Characters

  • 知足 (zhī zú) - to be content
  • 常 (cháng) - constant
  • 乐 (lè) - happiness

Tips

知足常乐 (zhī zú cháng lè) is a 成语 (chéng yǔ) that describes a specific attitude towards life and is most often used when someone is disappointed because they didn't get what they want. 

Examples

Your friend is complaining about how her investment didn't perform as well as she expected it to. You could say:

suī rán zhè cì tóu zī huí bào yì bān dàn zǒng bǐ yì diǎn méi yǒu hǎo zhī zú cháng lè ma

虽然这次投资回报一般,但总比一点没有好,知足常乐嘛!

Although this investment's return was mediocre, it's better than nothing at all, contentment is happiness, right!

You're having a discussion with your spouse about how your family doesn't have a ton of money, and you say:

wǒ men de shēng huó suī bú fù yù dàn yě suàn kě yǐ rén yào dǒng de zhī zú cháng lè

我们的生活虽不富裕,但也算可以,人要懂得知足常乐!

Even though our life isn't affluent, it's still pretty good, people must understand that contentment is happiness!


10

diū sān là sì

丢三落四

scatterbrained, forgetful

Characters

  • 丢 (diū) - to lose
  • 三 (sān) - three
  • 落 (là) - to forget to bring
  • 四 (sì) - four

Tips

You may have noticed that the second and fourth characters are the numbers 三 (sān) - three, and 四 (sì) - four. 三 (sān) and 四 (sì) often appear in 成语 (chéng yǔ) and are used in a similar way to how we say "this and that" in English. So 丢三落四 (diū sān là sì) means "to lose this and forget that" and is used to describe when someone is forgetful or scatterbrained.

Examples

You are talking about your friend who is constantly forgetting and losing his belongings and you say:

tā zuò shì bǐ jiào cū xīn cháng cháng diū sān là sì

他做事比较粗心,常常丢三落四。

He's fairly careless, often losing this and forgetting that.

You are starting to get older and you notice your memory isn't what it used to be, you could say:

wǒ zuì jìn jīng cháng diū sān là sì de jì yì lì tè bié bù hǎo

我最近经常丢三落四的,记忆力特别不好。

Lately I've been constantly forgetful, and my memory has been especially bad.


There's 5 more useful 成语 (chéng yǔ) to add to your growing collection! We challenge you to try and find at least one opportunity to use a 成语 (chéng yǔ) from this blogpost before we publish Part 3 soon!