It's fun to learn all the colorful Chinese expressions that don't exist in your native language. But without context and examples, it's really hard to remember these expressions - let alone use them in a conversation yourself.
We created a series of fun comics with the context and examples you need to understand the meaning of these awesome expressions, and how to use them in a real conversation.
Even if you don't plan to use them yourself, native speakers use these expressions all the time, so it's super helpful to learn these so you don't get lost when you hear them in a conversation.
Here are 5 fun comics to help teach you some very useful Mandarin expressions. If you're not already studying Chinese characters - 汉字 (hàn zì), we've included with audio demonstrations as well as pinyin and English translations to help you understand!
1. "炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóu yú) - to fry squid"
The Chinese expression "炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóu yú)" is literally "stir fry cuttlefish", but actually means "to be fired".
This funny little comic will help you remember it! Here's the pinyin/English translation:
yóu yú ne jīn tiān zěn me méi lái shàng bān
Where's the squid? Why didn't he come to work today?
tā zuó tiān bèi chǎo le
He was fried yesterday. (Play on: 'He was fired yesterday')
2. "会哭的孩子有奶吃 (huì kū de hái zi yǒu nǎi chī) - The child that cries has milk to eat."
In English, you might use the expression, 'The squeaky wheel gets the grease' to say that the loudest problems are the ones most likely to get attention. But if you try translating that into Chinese, you'll get a lot of confused looks from native speakers!
In Chinese, we have a similar expression! "会哭的孩子有奶吃 (huì kū de hái zi yǒu nǎi chī)" literally means, "The child that cries has milk to eat."
Use this in a conversation and you'll really sound like a native speaker!
Save this funny comic to help you remember this expression! Here's the translation in English and pinyin:
nǐ wèi shén me kū a
Why are you crying?
I'm ordering food.
3. "林子大了，什么鸟都有 (lín zi dà le shén me niǎo dōu yǒu) - The forest is getting bigger, there is every kind of bird."
The literal translation of "林子大了，什么鸟都有 (lín zi dà le shén me niǎo dōu yǒu)" is "the forest is getting bigger, there is every kind of bird". This expression is commonly used to mean "There are all kinds of people out there."
We made this fun little comic to help you remember this expression. Here's the translation in pinyin and English:
Person in bird costume:
tā shì shéi
Who is he?
xīn lái de nǐ zhī dào zuì jìn lín zi biàn dà le shén me niǎo dōu lái le
He's new, you know, recently the forest has gotten bigger, there's every kind of bird now!
* TIP: Are you an animal lover? Learn more unique (and useful!) animal-related Chinese expressions here!
4. "留尾巴 (liú wěi ba) - leave tail"
The Chinese expression, "留尾巴 (liú wěi ba)" is literally 'leave tail', but is used to mean "to leave loose ends".
This funny comic can help you remember the phrase. Here's the pinyin & English translation of the comic:
wǒ zhēn de méi yǒu tōu nǐ de dōng xi
I really didn't steal your stuff!
nǐ hái bù chéng rèn nǐ de wěi ba dōu liú zài wǒ jiā lǐ le
You still won't admit it!? You even left your tail at my home!
5. "露馅儿 - lòu xiàn(r) - expose stuffing"
I love the English idiom for giving away a secret: "to let the cat out of the bag". What an image!
In Chinese the idiom for giving away a secret is "露馅儿 - lòu xiàn(r)", which literally translates as "expose stuffing". Using this in conversation will totally impress any native speaker!
We made this cute little comic to help you remember the expression! Here's the translation in English and pinyin:
zěn me jiù tū rán fēn shǒu le
Why did you guys suddenly break up?
wū wū yīn wèi tā shuō tā bù xǐ huan bái cài xiàn(r) de
*Sniff sniff* Because she said she doesn't like Chinese cabbage filling!
nǐ bú shì gēn tā shuō nǐ shì xiāng gū xiàn(r) de ma
Didn't you tell her you have mushroom filling?
nà tiān bù xiǎo xīn lòu xiàn(r) le
That day I accidentally revealed my stuffing!
Want to learn more Chinese expressions that make you sound like a native speaker? Click here!
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