Roughly in Chinese

When you are asked about the quantity or extent of something but you do not know the exact amount or measurements, you could qualify your answer with the help of such words as “about”, “approximately” or “roughly”.

大约 (dàyuē) means roughly or approximately. The formal equivalents are
约略 (yuēlüè rougly, approximately) and (lüè approximately).

阿帕拉契亚山脉有多高?
Ā pà lā qì yà shānmài yǒu duō gāo?
How long is the Appalachian mountain range?

大约一千五百英里.
Dàyuē yī qiān wǔ bǎi yīnglǐ.
About 1500 miles.

大概 (dàgài) also means roughly, but it can also mean generally or probably.

车站距离这儿多远?
Huǒchēzhàn jùlí zhèr duō yuǎn?
How far is the railway station from here?

大概要走十分钟.
Dàgài yào zǒu shífēn zhōng.
It’s about a ten minutes walk.

她大概不会来.
Tā dàgài bùhuì lái.
She is probably not coming.

现在几点钟?
Xiànzài jǐ diǎn zhōng?
What time is it now?

差不多 (chàbuduō) means nearly, almost or similar. Literally, 差不多 (chàbuduō) translates to “not much different”.

现在差不多三点.
Xiànzài chàbuduō sān diǎn.
It’s almost three o’clock now.

他们两兄弟差不多一样高.
Tāmen liǎng xiōngdì chàbuduō yīyàng gāo.
The two brothers are about the same height.

There are also words and phrases that give one a rough idea of the amount or the extent.

一点儿 (yīdiǎnr) means a little or a bit.

请你给我一点儿水.
Qǐng nǐ gěi wǒ yīdiǎnr shuǐ.
Please give me a little water.

稍微 (shāowēi) and 有点儿 (yǒudiǎnr) mean a bit or a trifle. Often they are used together.

我稍微有点儿累.
Wǒ shāowēi yǒudiǎnr lèi.

一眨眼的工夫 (yīzhǎyǎn de gōngfu) means in a blink.

喝一杯茶的工夫 (hè yī bēi chá de gōngfu) means the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of tea.

芝麻大小 (zhīmá dàxiǎo) means the size of a sesame seed.

拳头大小 (quántou dàxiǎo) means fist-size.

If you do know the quantities or measurements of the items, then you will need to specify the units for the value you provide. The various units of measure are discussed in Chapters 6 and 7 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

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