Learn how to use Chinese words to best another

We humans are competitive by nature. Why, that’s part of our natural survival instinct. What a wonderful world it would be if we could just let all our aggression and physical prowess catapult us to a winning position on the sports arena rather than harm other human beings on the battlefield.

比较 (bǐjiào) means to compare or to compete. It is also used as an adverb that means “rather” or “comparatively”. (bǐ) is a formal word that has the same meaning as 比较 (bǐjiào), plus a few additional meanings, such as “to gesture”, “to be in the proximity of”, and “a ratio”. When announcing a ball game score of, for instance, “5 to 3”, you would say: 5 比 3 (wǔ bǐ sān).

One way to form the comparative of a Chinese adjective is to precede it with 比较 (bǐjiào). For example,

Tā hǎoxiàng bǐjiào yǒushàn.
He seems to be more amicable.

Tā bǐ wŏ gāo.
He is taller than I.

更加 (gèngjiā) means “even more”. It is often abbreviated as (gèng).

Tā bǐ nǐ gèng yǒuqián.
She is even wealthier than you.

With comparison and competition comes frustration. A Chinese saying goes like this:

人比人, 气死人.
Rén bǐ rén, qì sǐ rén.
Trying to measure up to others is totally maddening.

A healthier attitude is expressed in the following idiom:

比上不足, 比下有餘.
Bǐshàngbùzú, bǐxiàyǒuyú.
This may fall short of the best, but it’s still better than the worst.

The superlative is usually formed by preceding the adjective with (zuì).

Wā shì zuì róngyì xué.
Frog style is the easiest to learn.

Probably everyone has heard the following lines at some point:

Good, better, best, never go to rest
’till good gets better, and better, best.

It would be a mouthful to try and translate this adage into Chinese verbatim. No worries. This philosophy has already been condensed into a four-character idiom in Chinese:

Even when you have achieved excellence, still keep improving.

Click on this link to see a video featuring “Anything You Can Do”, a song composed by Irving Berlin for the Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun”. See if you can sing the following Chinese lines to the tune of this fun song:

Wúlùn nĭ huì shénme,
No matter what you can do,

Wŏ bǐ nĭ gèng huì.
I can do even better than you.

Wúlùn wŏ zuò shénme,
No matter what I do,

It’s a cinch and doubly good.
(Half the effort brings twice the effect.)

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ jiù huì!
I sure can.

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ jiù huì!
I sure can.

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ zuì huì!
I’m the best!

Wŏ zuì huì!
I’m the best!

Now, please calm down and review the usage of (huì to be able to) and other commonly used auxiliary verbs covered in Chapter 16 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anthony Bogadek
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 11:27:51

    Hi, dear Ms Lin,
    Lovely lesson; and so useful.

    I’ve picked up a few things this time too, if you don’t mind:
    1. With comarison and competition….
    I guess it’s: With comparison and ….
    2. ‘Til good gets better ….
    Is it: ‘Till good …..? The Oxford English Dictionary states that the short for of ‘until’ is ’till’.
    3. Jjīngyìqiújīng.
    I presume the spelling is: Jīngyìqiújīng.

    And now, for me, back to the slog, trying to memorize all those useful expressions.
    As always, with grateful thanks,
    A bee


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