Chinese antonyms

In the lyrics for the song mentioned in my previous post, we see that 老人 (lăorén old person) and 姑娘 (gūniáng girl or young lady) at at opposite ends of the age spectrum. An old person would be characterized as being of old age, or 年纪老 (nián jì lăo), and a young person, as being at a young age, or 年纪小 (niánjì xiăo).

Tā de niánjì tài xiăo, bù shìhé zuò zhè gōngzuò.
He is too young for this job.

不适合 (bú shìhé) means not befitting.

年青 (niánqīng) also means young, whereas 青年 (qīngnián) refers to a youth. 年轻人 (niánqīngrén) refers to young people in general. An older and wiser person can often be heard to remark:

年轻人, 不懂事.
Niánqīngrén, bù dǒngshì.
These young people; they don’t know what they’re doing.
These young people; they don’t know what’s proper.
(The rashness and folly of youth.)

(màn slow, slowly) is the opposite of (kuài quick, quickly).

冷风 (lĕng fēng) is cold wind, while 暖风 (nuăn fēng) is warm wind. 冷笑 (lěngxiào) is to sneer or to grin with dissatisfaction or bitterness. 温暖的微笑 (wēnnuǎn de wēixiào) is a warm and congenial smile.

不爱 (bú ài not to love) is the antonym of (ài to love). In fact, you can add (bú) to any adjective to form its antonym.

How is this for a description of a character in a novel?

Tā bù gāo bù ǎi, bú pàng bú shòu.
He is neither tall nor short, and neither fat nor thin.

青春 (qīngchūn) is one’s youth or youthfulness, while 晚年 (wǎnnián) is one’s old age. Click on this link to watch the kids perform a lively Xinjiang folksong.

This song talks about the sun going down now and rising again tomorrow.
The sun is called 太阳 (tàiyáng).
下山 (xiàshān) is to go down the mountains.
爬上来 (pá shànglai) is to climb up.

Another observation is that the flowers withering now will blooming again next year.
花谢了. (huā xiè le) means the flowers have withered.
花开了. (huā kāi le) means the flowers have burst into blooms.

Then there is mention of a pretty little bird that has flown away, no trace of it to be found.
飞去 (fēi qù) means to fly away.
回来 (huílái) means to come back.

Finally, one’s youth is likened to the bird that will never return. Rejoice, while we are still young (some of us perhaps a century young)!

Eértóngjié kuàilè!
Happy International Children’s Day!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Titi
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 06:29:41


    I have one question/comment regarding “to climb up”.

    You wrote it is pá shàngla. However I looked it up in my dictionary and found that 来 is lái. Is it a misspell or in this case the pingyin is different.

    Thank you,



    • likeabridge
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 16:31:24

      Hi Titi,

      There was an “i” missing. Thanks for pointing this out. The correct pinyin is shànglai.
      The third tone of lái changes to the first tone in shànglai because it is customary to soften the last syllable of some common words, particularly if the word is made of of two identical characters, such as 娃娃 (wáwa baby, toddler). However, it’s okay if you say shànglái, especially when you are giving an order.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: