My Favorite Vague Chinese Words: Part 2

#4 怎么样? zěnme yàng ?= “How’s it going?”; “How’d it go?”; “What’s it like?” “What’s happening?”; etc.
You probably have already come across this one. Very useful, very vague, and very multi-purpose. From “Wha’s up, yo?” to “How’d it all go?”. Find yourself unsure how to plug in a follow up question? No need to look further than“zěnmeyàng

Example: 纽约怎么样?
Niǔyuē zěnme yàng?
How’s New York?/ What’s New York like?

#5 不好意思 bù hǎo yìsi = “How embarrassing”; “Whoops, thanks”; “Oh thanks, I could have gotten that”, etc.
You drop something on the floor; someone is doing you a favor; you need help with something and it is obvious: These are all bù hǎo yìsi moments. Literally it is “not + good + meaning”, but its really used in moments we might say in English “oh, thanks”, or “ oh, I could have done that….”.

#6 随便 / 随便你 suíbiàn / suíbiàn nǐ = “It’s up to you”; “You decide”; “Whatever you want”
Don’t feel like ‘taking the bull by the horns’? I’ve got just the expression for you: suí biàn nǐ. Leave it up to the other person with this expression. It is as vague as it comes, litereally “casual + you”. You are

#7 无所谓 wúsuǒwèi = “It doesn’t matter to me”; “I don’t care”; “Either way is fine with me”
You don’t have much of an opinion about the matter; you’d like the questioner to make the decision; you simply don’t care which choice is made: These are all excellent wúsuǒwèi moments. Someone asks if you prefer to order a chicken dish or a beef dish, and either are fine with you, just simply answer wúsuǒwèi.

Stay tuned for Part 3…

4 Responses to “My Favorite Vague Chinese Words: Part 2”

  1. “不好意思” also have same meaning as “excuse me, may I (could you) ….”
    If you need someone help with or you are doning something disturb others, you can say “不好意思” to express you are sorry for that.

    For example

    (Excuse me, could you do my a favor?)

    example 2
    one farted in the elevator and was caught, he should say “不好意思”, but if ….he didnt be caught, well…, just take as nothing happened.

    The situation in the article,
    “You drop something on the floor; someone is doing you a favor.”

    I suggest you to say “謝謝你”(thank you) or “非常謝謝你”(thank you very much) to appreciate his helpness.

    General speaking, “不好意思” doesn’t have the meaning of “thank you”.Therefore mostly people in this situation will say “謝謝” instead of “不好意思”.

    BY the way, sometime “不好意思” comes with “謝謝你” especially when someone correct you something.
    When one of your friends tell you there are wrong spelling in your composition, you could say
    “不好意思,謝謝你” which means “how embarrassing and thank you for pointing out”.

    真是不好意思 ^^b
    (For what I’ve done and I didn’t come to make troubles.)

  2. My favourite vague (but very effective!) Chinese expression is:
    我不敢… (I don’t dare) i.e. 我不敢吃肉. (Literally: “I don’t dare to eat meat.) Works like a charm when you want to say that you absolutely, under no circumstances whatsoever will eat meat, and that to try and convince you otherwise would be a complete waste of time.

    I found this out the hard way. “I don’t like meat.”, “I can’t eat meat.”, “I choose not to eat meat.” or any variation of the above just elicited an objection paired with a friendly “妳吃吃看吧!” (Why not try it and see?) Which was good when I felt like learning Chinese and looking for a reason to talk, and not so good when I really just didn’t want to eat meat or have to explain myself.

    When someone told me you can just say “我不敢” and that would put an end to it, I didn’t believe it, but it’s true, it does. It’s like it’s a code for “don’t even bother”. And happily, it works for other actions, so you can say “I don’t dare drink (whatever) /go (wherever), etc.”

    My theory is that in a culture where it’s polite to ask questions (they show you care) there have to be “code words/phrases” to let people know where not go with a conversation. 我有事., Brought up in the above post, is a perfect example. It means, “I have something to do.” but is really code for, “I don’t really feel like talking about it/elaborating, so please don’t ask.” And for the most part, people don’t. No one says, “什麼事?” It’s mutually understood within the culture that it’s polite just to let the topic drop.

  3. I like your input. Exactly, no one says and so ” 什麼事?” Funny, when I lived in Taiwan I was semi-vegetarian and so had to explain myself as well. The one thing people would never mess with was if you said it was like being a “Buddhist”. That was Taiwan though and so probably different from mainland. But definitely settles the matter if you mention “I don’t eat meat like a Buddhist”, no discussion, no convincing to try some meat, etc. End of story. Let me know if you think of any others. I’d like to expand the list.

  4. Hi there! Glad you like it! Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic.

    Your post made me think of my all time favorite vague Chinese neutral term, which is actually the pronoun for he/she/it (written 他/她/它 respectively, but pronounced “ta” for all three.) I think it’s absolutely brilliant, albeit in the way that the handless teacups are brilliant.

    A gender neutral (singular) pronoun has unlimited potential. Love, love, love it:)

    Here’s a link to the blog post I recently wrote on the subject:

    I wiill try to think of a few more and get back to you:)

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