You are probably familiar with the concept of 成语 chéngyǔ (idioms) in Chinese. Maybe you even know a few; if so, we applaud you. Otherwise, we have a few popular Chinese idioms to get you started.
Any Tom, Dick, or Harry
Literally: Zhang Three, Li Four
Nowadays, besides hearing this idiom in full, you may see 张三 or 李四 used as filler names for text or dialogues.
Zhè jiàn shì zhǎo zhuānjiā lái zuò, bùyào zhǎo zhāngsānlǐsì.
Find a professional to do this, don't just use any Tom, Dick, or Harry.
At sixes and sevens; in great disorder
Literally: Disorder of seven, eight messes
To cut a long story short, there was a lot of fighting and bloodshed during both.
Āiyā, wǒ de fángjiān luànqībāzāo de. Wǒ yào shōushí shōushí.
Ugh, my room is a mess. I need to organize it.
Èrhuà bù shuō
To not think twice
Literally: A second word is not said
Tā èrhuà bù shuō jiù bǎ qián jiè gěi tā bàbale.
She lent her father the money without a second thought.
To be of two minds; to be distracted
Literally: Three hearts, two desires
Kǎoshì de shíhòu bùyào sānxīn'èryì.
When testing, don't let your mind wander.
Literally: Cannot be imagined
Māmā pāoqì háizi shì bùkěsīyì de.
It is unimaginable for a mother to abandon her child.
Bùjiàn bú sàn
Be there or be square
Literally: Not seen, not leaving.
Jīntiān wǎnshàng bā diǎn yīqǐ chīfàn, bùjiàn bú sàn.
We're eating together at 8:00 tonight, be there or be square.
So-so; vague; careless
Literally: Horse horse, tiger tiger
His first son saw the sketch and asked what the creature was. His father told him it was a tiger. The second son saw the drawing and asked what animal was depicted. Wanting to be fair to both parts of his artwork, the artist said it was a horse.
Not long after, the first son was out hunting. He saw a neighbor's horse and shot it, believing it to be a tiger. To reimburse the horse's owner, the artist had to spend his whole life savings and was left destitute.
Not far away, the second son came across a tiger in the woods. Thinking it was a horse, the younger son tried to ride the tiger and was eaten.
Needless to say, the artist was never as vague or careless about his drawings again.
Ānquán jiǎnchá bùnéng mǎmǎhǔhǔ.
Safety checks cannot be done carelessly.
Want to impress your friends even more? Master these Confusing Chinese Synonym Pairs.
Know any other popular Chinese idioms? Share them with us in the comments!
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