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25 Common Chinese Idioms You Should Know - Part 2


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!


xiǎo xīn yì yì


with great care, very cautious


  • 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.")


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


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


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


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


ài bú shì shǒu


to love something too much to part with it


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


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.


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


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


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


pò bù jí dài


can't wait


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


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


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


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


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


zhī zú cháng lè


contentment is happiness


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


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. 


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


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


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


diū sān là sì


scatterbrained, forgetful


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


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.


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


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


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!