1．八竿子打不着bā gān zi dǎ bù zhe “Very distant, or unconcerned”
比喻二者之间关系很远或本无关系。 This common saying expresses very weak and distant connection both between people and things.
A: You’ll pass the exam, just find Xiao Wang, he’ll help you
B: Why should I find him? Why should he help me? We don’t have any connection
2．八九不离十bā jiǔ bù lí shí “Being not far out; pretty close to reality”
Expresses the practical or real way of thinking/expressing
A: Why do you like the articles of this journalist so much?
B: I often read his articles, because his ideas and thinking are real.
3．八仙过海，各显神通 bā xian guò hǎi ，gè xiǎn shén tōng
“Everybody shows or applies his special talents and skills to win”
Expresses the will to demonstrate all the skills, abilities and treats of character in some kind of activities,
A: Why is the match atmosphere so strained?
B: It is strained because every participant wants to win so they are showing their skills and abilities, doing their best
4．八字还没一撇 bā zì hái méi yī piē
“There is no a slightest sign of anything happening yet”
Expresses something, that hasn’t done or hasn’t happened yet (need more time to finish)
A: Is the building draft ready?
B: I’m sorry, but yesterday I didn’t have enough time for it, it’s not finished yet
5．百闻不如一见 bǎi wén bù rú yī jiàn
“It’s better to see once than to hear for a thousand times”
It’s better to see or to feel something yourself with your own eyes to understand it.
A: They say that the Great Wall is an outstanding landmark, but I’ve never been there
B: It’s better to see once than hear for a thousand times, tomorrow we’ll visit it.
6. 冰冻三尺，非一日之寒 Bīng dòng sān chǐ，fēi yī rì zhī hán
“Three feet of ice does not form in a single day” ; “Rome wasn’t built in a day”
This idiom means: one needs to do his best, to work hard, to spend many years to achieve his goal, to succeed, to become good in something.
B：他学了七年的汉语了，他每天勤奋地学习，花自己的空闲读 书，也重视细节，你想想， 冰冻三尺，非一日之寒。
A: Why is his Chinese so good? I want to achieve the same level.
B: He’s been learning it for seven years, he every day learns a lot, spends his free time on learning, concentrates on details, think now : Rome wasn’t built in a day.
7．不分青红皂白 Bù fēn qīng hóng zào bái
“Not distinguishing red-blue or black-white”; “Not to distinguish between right and wrong”
The idiom expresses words or actions made under the emotional stress or a feeling, often one doesn’t realize or doesn’t know the real situation and blames wrong people or makes wrong conclusions.
A: Why is she blaming you? It’s not your fault.
B: She’s extremely angry now, doesn’t know who is right and who is wrong
8. 不知天高地厚Bù zhī tiān gāo dì hòu
“An exaggerated opinion of one’s own abilities”;“be arrogant and impolite”
物的复杂性。 亦形容冒失、 幼稚或狂妄自大
Expresses a person or his arrogant attitude to people, his impolite behavior and exaggerated self-opinion and self-esteem
A: Do you know this girl?
B: Yes, we do, but we don’t talk to her, because she is foxy, arrogant and impolite, she’s got an exaggerated self-opinion.
9．吃不了兜着走 Chī bùliǎo dōuzhe zǒu
“If you can’t eat it all, you’ll have to take it home”
不可拿进园去, 若叫人知道了, 我就吃不了兜着走
The idiom means: in case one couldn’t solve the problem, he shouldn’t blame others because it’s his own fault and he should take responsibility for it
A: I’ve been translating this article half a day, my translation is wrong, teacher will criticize me, don’t know what to do….
B: I knew it would happen, this article is very difficult, your level is not appropriate for it, it’s your fault, solve it out yourself.
10．打开窗户说亮语Dǎkāi chuānghù shuō liàng yǔ
“Say sincerely, don’t hide the truth”
The idiom expresses the request to say the truth without hiding the real facts
A: Why have you come alone? Where is Lili?
B: She doesn’t feel well.
A: A! I talked to her today, she’s ok. Say truth, don’t lie to me!
B: She criticized me, so we argued.
11．当一天和尚撞一天钟Dāng yītiān héshàng zhuàng yītiān zhōng
“Do as little as possible, take a passive attitude towards one’s work”
比喻做事情敷衍消极, 混一天算一天, 没有积极主动的精神。 „当”也说”做”
The idiom expresses the passive and idle attitude to one’s life, one is not interested in future, it’s important to live today, to waste one’s time without making plans for future.
A: I know a guy, he doesn’t like learning, he doesn’t want to look for a decent job, he doesn’t want to have a stable salary and career, his attitude to life is really passive.
B: Why is it so? How does he make a living?
A: He gave up his studies, and has been working for Macdonald’s since ever as a waiter….he doesn’t have any future plans, and living just today without thinking about tomorrow.
12．鸡蛋里挑骨头 Jīdàn li tiāo gú tóu
“To look for bones in an egg”
Expresses that one deliberately tries to find some drawbacks or disadvantages in someone, because of a personal dislike.
A: Your level of Chinese is quite high! Why didn’t you choose “Ancient Chinese culture” lesson?
B: Teacher Wang said that my Chinese was really poor, she doesn’t like me because I always say the truth, so she didn’t permit me to take this lesson.
A: A! I got it! Don’t listen to her, she always looks for bones in an egg.
13．不到黄河不死心Bù dào huánghé bùsǐ xīn
“Refuse to give up until all hope is gone”
The idiom says not to give up until one reaches his goal, despite obstacles he needs to keep on trying till the end.
A: I don’t know what to do. I’m really worrying, doctor said I had a serious sickness.
B: Don’t worry! He arranged a special treatment for you, you’ll be better soon. Don’t give up until all hope is gone.
14．车到山前必有路Chē dào shān qián bì yǒu lù
“When we get to the mountain, there’ll be a way through”
This common saying expresses that the solving of the problem will be found gradually, no need to hurry or to worry, it will be solved out itself.
A: I need to look for a job after graduation, will you tell me different ways how to do it?
B: Don’t be in a hurry, you’re a freshman, haven’t graduated yet, when you get to the mountain, there will be a way through.
15．吃软不吃硬Chī ruǎn bù chī yìng
“To eat soft food, but to refuse hard food”
The common saying expresses that it’s better to solve the problems without forcing, aggressing, pushing someone, it’s better to find soft way of solving.
A: The students of our class often ask teacher Li for help, they say he is very sensible and kind
B: Right. He is very patient, eats soft food, but not hard one.
16．打肿脸充胖子Dǎ zhǒng liǎn chōng pàngzi
“To swell one’s face up by slapping it to look imposing”
The idiom means that someone exaggerates own abilities, opportunities deliberately to impress someone; one pretends that he knows a lot, he is very experienced, well-read and well educated, but actually he’s very stupid.
A: Look! His car’s expensive, clothes are fashionable, every day he eats at the luxurious restaurants, he seems to make much money.
B: Haha! It’s just his appearance, actually he borrowed money from his friends, his monthly income is not so high.
17．家丑不可外扬Jiāchǒu bùkě wàiyáng
“Family shames must not be spread abroad”; “Don’t wash your dirty linen in public”
Meaning : No need to tell everyone about one’s personal troubles or family problems; it’s better to hide personal problems than tell everybody.
A: For the last time he works not very good, boss is not satisfied with his job, do you know why? What’s happened?
B: I can guess, he argued with his wife, probably soon he’ll divorce her, but he never washes his dirty linen in public.
18．赶鸭子上架Gǎn yāzi shàngjià
“Push somebody to do something way beyond their ability”; “Drive a duck onto a perch”
The idiom means to force someone to do something, which is beyond his abilities and against his will; to demand impossible from somebody.
A: O! Why are you going to hold this presentation? Where is Anna?
B: She is discussing very important question by phone, I don’t know what I should say, and I’m really nervous, it’s beyond my ability.
19. 胳膊拧不过大腿Gēbo nǐng bù guo dàtuǐ
“An arm will never compete with a strong leg”
Expresses that an inexperienced shouldn’t compete with stronger and more experienced person.
A: Boss checked my report, criticized it, I’m very angry now, I don’t want to work with him! I’ll complain on him!
B: Stop worrying! You boss is wise man, he has a great experience, don’t even try to compete or argue with him.
20．姜是老的辣Jiāng shì lǎolà
“The older the wiser”
The idiom describes someone who is old and wise, who can give one a good piece of advice because he is experienced and intelligent, often about old people.
A: My sickness is becoming worse and worse, doctor doesn’t know how to treat it….
B: Visit and ask Mister Qiang, before he had the same sickness as yours, he’ll help you, he is wise and experienced enough for it.
“Clumsy birds have to start flying early”; “The slow need to start early”
Expresses one’s working hard to compensate for his limited abilities; first one needs to learn and after it get some knowledge and experience.
A: I want to open my own shop, customers will like buying electric devices there.
B: Your plans are not bad, but you’ve never made any business, you don’t have special business knowledge, ask other businessmen, ask them to teach you, clumsy birds have to start flying early .
22．太阳从西边出来Tàiyáng cóng xībian chūlái
“The Sun rises in the West”
Describes something incredible or unbelievable happened, different from normal or usual.
A: The sun will rise in the West, no traffic jams today?
B: I was surprised too, today no traffic jams on the roads, so I easily could go.
23． 随大流儿Suí dà liú er
“Go with the flow”; “Go with the stream”; “Go with the tide”
Expresses the common, ordinary behavior, one behaves like the vast majority, like everybody, without having own opinion or point of view.
A: Your major is economics and finance, it’s a very popular major, why did you choose it?
B: I didn’t hesitate much, I just went with the flow, I study together with my friends.
“To gain influence by pull or unofficial channels”; “To enter by the back door”
The common saying means that something can be done or gained due to good connections, familiar people or money.
A: He is so stupid! Why did he win this contest?
B: His father has good connections with the jury members, so due to this connections he took the 1st place.
25．破罐子破摔Pò guànzi pò shuāi
“Smash a pot to pieces just because it’s cracked-write oneself off as hopeless and act recklessly”
This idiom means that one gave up because he couldn’t overcome some difficulties and obstacles, admitted himself unlucky or hopeless.
A: I had been learning in USA for 5 years, graduated, came back to my country, but employers don’t need me, I’m really sad, I’m ready to give up, my education is useless here.
B: Don’t panic! Your education is quite good! You can speak English, you’re good at economics, good at accounting! Just wait a little, you’ll find a good job.
“To make somebody wear tight shoes”; “To make difficulties for someone”
This common saying means that one deliberately makes troubles for someone, by oppressing, deceiving and hurting him.
A: You both don’t talk, what’s up?
B: He deceived me, I trusted him, but yesterday he stole my purse, making difficulties for me.
“To chatter idly”; “To gossip about nothing”
This common saying describes talking without purpose, talking because one is bored, or no topic to talk about.
A: Recently he has married, she went abroad…
B: She gave birth to two children
C: My younger sister entered the university
D: Ok. Keep on talking, I don’t have much time to chatter …
“To have real skill”; “To be really good at something”
This idiom means that one has really good skills in something, is really good at doing his job.
A: A! Is your fridge repaired? How is it possible? Who repaired it so fast?
B: My elder brother yesterday repaired without any tools, he has real skills in repairing devices
29．拍马屁Pāi mǎ pì
“To lick somebody’s boots”; “To flatter”
The idiom means that one praises another on purpose, flatters to get better job, more money, to gain good attitude, etc…
A: Do you know this guy? He is over polite with you.
B: Of course I know him! I’m his boss, he over praises me, I hate his flattering compliments.
“To show off one’s abilities”
The common saying expresses showing off one’s abilities, one’s skills; to do one’s best
A: He lost last competition, really didn’t justify my expectations, though he’s a hard-working sportsman
B: I know, last week he every day trained a lot, this time contest he’ll do his best, I believe in him.
31．爆冷门儿Bào lěngmén er
“To pull off a coup”
The idiom means unexpected turn of events, unexpected victory or success of someone considered to be weak or loser.
A: Do you know who got the Oxford University scholarship?
B: Wang Li?
A: Ha ha! No, not Wang Li, Xiao Li got it.
B: A! I didn’t expect it, she’s so modest, passive, unsociable, she pulled off a coup.
32．杀鸡给猴看 Shā jī gěi hóu kàn
„Kill a chicken in front of a monkey”
The idiom expresses deliberate punishment, making an example out of someone to frighten others.
A: Yesterday at the shop I saw a shop-owner criticizing an assistant, everybody stood and looked at it, why did he do it in front of everyone?
B: He deliberately did it, he made an example of that guy to frighten other assistants.
33．干打雷不下雨Gān dǎléi bùxià yǔ
“Much said but nothing done”
比喻空作许诺, 不肯实施, 不肯给人以实惠
The common saying expresses that one likes talking and promising a lot, but virtually does nothing.
A: He said today we first go to the park, after go to the cinema for watching a movie, in the evening we were going to have dinner at a restaurant, now it’s already seven in the evening, but he still hasn’t called me!
B: He’s unreliable guy, don’t believe him, he always promises and talks a lot, but does nothing.
34．捡了芝麻丢了西瓜Jiǎnle zhīma diūle xīguā
“To pick up the seeds but overlook the watermelons”
The idiom means concentrating on details, on unimportant things, but neglecting the main idea, the most important questions or points.
A: I can’t read texts quickly, while reading as soon as I see unknown word I start panicking and can’t concentrate
B: Change you reading method, during reading you don’t need to recognize all the words, your problem is that you pay attention to details but neglect the main idea, you need to understand the meaning but not the details.
35．三天打鱼两天晒网Sān tiān dǎ yú liǎng tiān shài wǎng
“Work by fits and starts”
比喻做事情、 做学问没有恒心, 时断时续, 不能持之以恒。
The common saying expresses that one can work hard for one or two days, after it has rest or does nothing for a week; works for a short time, relaxes for much longer time.
A: I heard that your room mate learnt really hard, but I often meet her at one of the pubs. It’s strange, isn’t it?
B: Actually she’s not so assiduous student, works by fits and starts.
36．脚踏两只船Jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán
“To have a foot in both camps”
The idiom means: for the purpose of doing speculation or leaving more opportunities for oneself, one keeps in touch with both sides
A: I don’t know what to do, I love my boyfriend but at the same time I like my job too, one foreign company offers to cooperate with them, I need to make a decision quickly
B: Now you need to choose, your own family or your career, don’t try to have a boot in both camps.
37．泼冷水Pō lěng shuǐ
“To pour cold water on”
The idiom means that one deliberately dampens someone’s enthusiasm
A: Next year I’m going to write thesis on topic “Chinese policy on reform and opening to outside world”
B: You can’t do it! You don’t have necessary knowledge and abilities….
A: You should have encouraged me, but not damping my enthusiasm
38．路遥知马力，日久见人心Lù yáo zhī mǎlì, rì jiǔ jiàn rénxīn
“As distance tests a horse’s strength, so time reveals a person’s heart”
The common saying means that it’s possible to know someone well only through years and time, only time shows the truth nature of a person.
A: You trust this employee, every time you have a problem, you always ask for his advice
B: I’ve been working with him for twenty years, he got great experience, he’s got special knowledge, as distance tests a horse’s strength, so time reveals a person’s heart.
39．卖瓜的不说瓜苦Mài guā de bù shuō guā kǔ
“Every potter praises his pot”
The idiom expresses that one praises himself without saying the truth; hides some disadvantages and drawbacks
A: People who make advertisement often exaggerate the service and goods of some companies, I’m not satisfied with quality of some of them, really made me angry.
B: They don’t care about the quality, all they do is praising their own goods, without saying a word about quality.
40．走弯路Zǒu wān lù
“To take an indirect route”
The idiom means that one wastes his time by choosing inappropriate way or method of solving the problem out; incorrect choice or method
A: I’ve again made a mistake, I’m doing my best to get her problem over, but it’s useless
B: You can’t solve it out, you don’t listen to wise people, you’re too stubborn. Don’t take an indirect route.
“To go through the motions”
The common saying means doing something as a mere formality; being conducted in artificial or perfunctory way to get “surface” respect from others
A: The front of main building has been repaired, but inside it’s still needed to paint walls and decorate it with new furniture, it’s weird
B: One military officer will visit our place soon, so they decorated only the front face of the building, just went through the motions
42．半瓶醋Bàn píng cù
“Dabbler”; “Half-educated person”
The idiom describes one who is just amateur or half-educated or someone who didn’t complete his studies
A: He really made me angry, we argued a lot, but he didn’t introduce any considerable argument
B: Don’t worry, he’s just amateur in the field of engineering, a dabbler
43．拖后腿Tuō hòu tuǐ
“To hinder (or impede) someone”
The idiom expresses deliberate holding someone back, making obstacles for someone
A: Next year I’m going to go abroad to study, apply for a scholarship, get Master’s Degree in Law, but Xiao Li dissuades me, he’s my best friend so I’m really surprised
B: Don’t listen to him, he is jealous, he deliberately holds you back.
44．出洋相Chū yang xiàng
“To make fool of oneself”
The idiom means making fun of someone; deliberately sneer at someone
A: Yesterday’s talks were very difficult, she wasn’t able to translate
B: What’s now then?
A: She’s really ashamed, made fool of herself, likely to resign.
45．一把手Yī bǎ shǒu
“A good hand”; “The first in command”
This expression means that one is keen on something; good at doing something.
A: I’m going to hold a dinner party tomorrow, need to cook meal, I’d like to impress my guests.
B: Ask Wang Li to help you, she is really keen on cooking
Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service
Institute of Foreign languages