Directly and indirectly in Chinese

Diameter 直径 (zhíjìng)

Diameter 直径 (zhíjìng)

The opposite of (wān curved or bent) is (zhí), which means straight, directly, straightforward, upright or just.

直接 (zhíjiē) means direct, directly or immediately.

Nǐ kěyǐ zhíjiē hé tā liánluò.
You can contact him directly.

直达 (zhídá) means nonstop. Therefore, 直达车 (zhídá chē) is a bus that will go directly to the destination without making stops on the way.

We have previously (4/9/14) learned that 半径 (bànjìng) is the radius of a circular shape. The diameter is called 直径 (zhíjìng).

直流电 (zhíliúdiàn) is direct current. Alternating current is called 交流电 (jiāoliúdiàn).

直肠 (zhícháng) is the straight section of the large intestine, or rectum. On the other hand, 直肠子 (zhíchángzi) refers to a person who is straightforward and outspoken, or 直爽 (zhíshuǎng).

Tā gèxìng zhíshuǎng.
He is straightforward in personality.

You could also describe such a person by using a four-character Chinese idiom:

Tā xīnzhíkǒukuài.
He is frank and outspoken.

直截了当 (zhíjiéliǎodàng) means straightforward, blunt or pointblank.

Tā zhíjiéliǎodàng shuō tā bù ài tā.
He said pointblank that he did not love her.

As “he” and “she” sound exactly the same in Chinese, it will not be possible to tell whether a man is dumping a woman or a woman is dumping a man if you are not familiar with the situation and just heard someone utter the above sentence.

一直 (yīzhí) means continuously, always or all along.

Tā yīzhí bùtíng de kū.
She kept crying non-stop.

直到 (zhídào) means up until.

我永远爱你, 直到海枯石烂.
Wǒ yǒngyuǎn ài nǐ, zhídào hǎikūshílàn
I will love you forever, until the seas run dry and the rocks are totally eroded.

直觉 (zhíjué) is one’s intuition or gut feeling.

Wǒ de zhíjué shì tā méiyǒu chéngyì.
My gut feeling is that he is not sincere.

正直 (zhèngzhí) means honest, upright and fair.

理直气壮 (lǐzhíqìzhuàng) means acting bold and assured because one has justice on one’s side.

间接 (jiànjiē) means indirect or indirectly.

间隔 (jiàngé) is the interval between two events or the space separating two objects.

房间 (fángjiān) are rooms that are separated from each other by walls.

间断 (jiànduàn) means interrupted or disconnected.

我和他通信多年, 没有间断.
Wǒ hé tā tōngxìn duōnián, méiyǒu jiànduàn.
I corresponded with him for years without interruption.

中间 (zhōngjiān) means in the middle or being between two things or persons. Therefore, a middleman is called 中间人 (zhōngjiānrén), and a spy is called 间谍 (jiàndié).

“Directly” and “directly” are adverbs. You might want to review Chapter 17 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for the correct placement of an adverb in a sentence.

Suddenly in Chinese

The other day, one of my readers mentioned 忽远忽近 (hū yuǎn hū jìn) in a comment. There are actually loads of four-character phrases you could make by using the same construct. In fact, you can replace (jìn) and (yuǎn) with any two opposite single-character descriptors and form valid phrases, although some maybe more meaningful than others. Following are a few examples to get you started:

忽快忽慢 (hū kuài hū màn) – one moment fast, the next slow
忽前忽后 (hū qián hū hòu) – one moment in front, the next behind
忽高忽低 (hū gāo hū dī) – one moment high, the next low
忽冷忽热 (hū lěng hū rè) – one moment cold, the next warm
忽明忽暗 (hū míng hū àn) – one moment bright, the next dark

他的情绪忽高忽低, 很不稳定.
Tā de qíngxù hū gāo hū dī, hěn bù wěndìng.
His mood swings between high and low – quite unstable.

Tā duì wǒ hū lěng hū rè.
He is cold to me one moment and affectionate the next moment.

There are a few ways of saying “suddenly” or “all of a sudden” in Chinese.

The adverbs 忽然 (hūrán), 突然 (tūrán), 遽然 (jùrán), 猛然 (měngrán) and 陡然 (dǒurán) all mean suddenly, abruptly or unexpectedly. 忽然 (hūrán) and 突然 (tūrán) are more commonly used in everyday speech. (rán) is a classical word that means “in this manner”.

(hū) means to ignore or to neglect, as in 忽视 (hūshì). You could think of 忽然 as describing something happening suddenly while you have your back turned for a moment.

Wǒmén chūfā de shíhòu hūrán biàntiān le.
When we started out, the weather suddenly changed for the worse.

Tā hūrán gǎibiàn le zhǔyì.
He suddenly changed his mind.

(tū) means sticking out or dashing forward, hence unexpectedly or suddenly. 突发事件 (tū fā shìjiàn) is an unexpected incident.

Tā tūrán gǎibiàn le jìhuà.
He suddenly changed his plan.

Wǒ bù zhīdào tā wèishénme tūrán bùlǐ wǒ le.
I don’t know why she suddenly distanced herself from me.

(měng) means violently or vigorously, connoting a sudden change.

Tā měngrán tuī le wǒ yīxià.
He suddenly gave me a push.

(dǒu) means steep or precipitous, again connoting a sudden change.

Chēzi dǒurán tíng xià.
The car suddenly stopped.

(jù) means hastily or being alarmed as when something happens abruptly.

他遽然离开了. (jùrán)
Tā jùrán líkāi le.
He went away hastily.

Colloquially, people also like to use 一下 (yīxià) or 一下子 (yīxiàzi), which means all of a sudden or within a moment.

Méiyǒu xiǎngdào tā yīxiàzi jiù fāpíqi le.
To my surprise, he got angry all of a sudden.

她一下子哭, 一下子笑.
Tā yīxiàzi kū, yīxiàzi xiào.
She alternates between crying and laughing.

Nàxiē jiǎozi yīxiàzi jiù bèi chī guāng le.
Those dumplings were gobbled up in no time at all.

Chinese idioms that follow the AABB pattern (1)

Have you ever wondered why many Chinese idioms contain exactly four characters? It’s because a phrase with four syllables simply sounds good, much like the four quarter beats in a measure of a musical composition. Well, that’s just one of the reasons. Written classical Chinese is concise, perhaps to minimize the amount of time and effort it takes to write the characters using a brush dipped in ink one makes by grinding the ink stick on a wet stone slab. A four-character phrase is short in length but can still accommodate a multitude of combinations of single-character and double-character words to form a meaningful expression or even summarize an entire story. Traditional Chinese people like to have things 四平八稳 (sìpíngbāwěn), i.e. very stable, well grounded and well organized. A four-character phrase is like a table that is flat on all four sides and stable in all eight directions. Therefore, generations of students studied text books filled with four-character phrases and idioms, and scholars took pride in being able to judiciously or cleverly incorporate choice idioms in their stereotyped essays. Many of the Chinese idioms are made up of pair of four-character phrases, which further strengthen the robust structure.

Today we will look at a few Chinese idioms that are relatively easy to learn because each consists of just two different characters in duplicate. Most of the examples below are adjectives or adverbial phrases.

You’re probably already familiar with 马马虎虎 (mǎmǎhūhū), which means so-so, not too bad, not very good,or being careless. When someone asks how you’ve been, you could use this phrase as a response.

三三两两 (sānsānliǎngliǎng) means in twos and threes.

Tāmen sānsānliǎngliǎng yīdào huíjiā.
They went home together in twos and threes.

慢慢腾腾 (mànmànténgténg) means unhurried or slowly.

Tā zuòshì mànmànténgténg.
He takes his time in doing things.

鬼鬼祟祟 (guǐguǐsuìsuì) and 偷偷摸摸 (tōutōumōmō) both refer to doing things stealthily or covertly. The opposite is 堂堂正正 (tángtángzhèngzhèng), which means to be open and aboveboard. This phrase also describes an honest and dignified person, with nothing to hide or to be ashamed of.

轰轰烈烈 (hōnghōnglièliè) describes doing something on a grand scale with a bang, as in a revolution.

干干净净 (gāngānjìngjìng) means clean and tidy, or spick-and-span. 规规矩矩 (guīguījǔjǔ) means punctilious or following rules to a T.

断断续续 (duànduànxùxù) means intermittently.

Tāmen duànduànxùxù tōng le jǐ cì xìn.
They wrote to each other off and on a few times.

战战兢兢 (zhànzhànjīngjīng) literally translates to “trembling with fear”. It describes a state of being extremely cautious.

舒舒服服 (shūshūfúfú) means comfortably.

Tā shūshūfúfú di shuì le gè wǔshuì.
He took a sweet nap.

叽叽喳喳 (jījīzhāzhā) means to twitter like birds.

嘻嘻哈哈 (xīxīhāhā) means laughing and acting happily.

她们叽叽喳喳, 嘻嘻哈哈, 非常快乐.
Tāmen jījīzhāzhā, xīxīhāhā, fēicháng kuàilè.
They chattered and laughed, feeling very happy.

哭哭啼啼 (kūkutítí) is to weep and wail incessantly.

Tā kūkutítí di huíjiā qù le.
She went home crying and wailing along the way.

扭扭捏捏 (niǔniǔniēniē affected, not straightforward, unmanly) describes the mincing manners of some people, particularly ladies.

他扭扭捏捏, 似乎不好意思.
Tā niǔniǔniēniē, sìhu bùhǎoyìsi.
He acts hesitantly, appearing to be shy and ill at ease.

On the other hand, 大大方方 (dàdàfāngfāng) means to behave graciously, naturally and unaffected.

Tā dàdàfāngfāng di shēnchū shǒu lái.
She graciously extended her hand.

里里外外 (lǐlǐwàiwài) means inside and outside of a person, a household or an establishment.

这件事, 里里外外的人都知道了.
Zhèi jiàn shì, lǐlǐwàiwài de rén dōu zhīdào le.
Everybody around already knows about this.

来来回回 (láiláihuíhuí) means going back and forth.

Tā láiláihuíhuí zhǎo le sān cì.
He went back and forth searching (for it) three times.

来来往往 (láiláiwǎngwǎng) means going to-and-fro.

Jiē shàng láiláiwǎngwǎng de rén hěn duō.
On the street many people are coming and going.

Adjectives and Adverbs

In the simple sentence patterns that we have learned so far, you’ve seen that a basic statement follows the form of “Noun + Verb”. To provide additional information about the “Noun”, you could add one or more words or phrases to describe it. Such words or phrases are adjectives. Similarly, adverbs are words or phrases that you could add to describe the action represented by the “Verb”. This basic concept is the same in the English and Chinese languages. However, in some cases there are differences in where the adjectives or adverbs are placed in a sentence. Many beginners and intermediate-level students stumble over the proper placement of adverbial phrases in a sentence. If you have a copy of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”, please pay special attention to the usage notes and examples for adverbs and adverbial phrases in Chapters 17 and 18.

The usage of adjectives in Chinese mostly parallels that in English. When the adjective is placed before the noun, it usually takes on the suffix (de). For example:

他是个聪明的人 .
Tā shì gè cōngmíng de rén.
He is an intelligent man.

When the adjective is linked to the noun by an implied “be” verb, (shì), then (de) is usally omitted.

Zhè huā hěn xiāng.
This flower is very fragrant.

Jīnwǎn yuèliang hěn liàng.
Tonight the moon is very bright.

A few months ago we learned how to ask questions that start with when, where and how. To answer those questions, you will employ adverbs or adverbial phrases.

Here are a few examples of adverbs that indicate the time an action takes place: 每天 (měitiān every day), 早上 (zǎoshàng morning), 今年 (jīnnián this year), 已经 (ǐjīng already), and 依旧 (ījiù still, as of old) Such an adverb is never placed after the verb it modifies. On the other hand, adverbial phrases, such as 到如今 (dào rújīn even today) could be placed at the beginning or at the end of a sentence.

Therefore, do not say:

Tā sān shí suì le jīnnián.
She is thirty years old this year.

Here also, the “be” verb (shì) is implied.

Do say:

Tā jīnnián sān shí suì le.
She is thirty years old this year.

Tā ǐjīng sān shí suì le.
She is already thirty years old.

Wǒ dào rújīn ījiù sīniàn tā.
I, even now, still miss him.

Dào rújīn, wǒ ījiù sīniàn tā.
Even today, I still miss him.

Tā měitiān gōngzuò dào wǔ diǎn.
Each day he works until five o’clock.

Questions about where an action occurs are answered by using such words and phrases as: 这里 (zhelǐ here), 那里 (nàlǐ there), 在饭厅里 (zài fàntīng lǐ in the dining room), etc..

Wǒ zhù zài zhelǐ.
I live here.

Bùyào bǎ tā fàng zài nàli.
Don’t put it there.

Tā zài fàntīng lǐ chīfàn.
He is having a meal in the dining room.

With English, you can readily change many adjectives to their corresponding adverbs by adding the suffix “ly”. For example, “quick” is an adjective, and the corresponding adverb is “quickly”. Similarly, many Chinese adjectives can also serve as adverbs that describe how an action is carried out. The following sentence uses 轻轻的 (qīngqīng de gentle, light) as an adjective describing the wind. This same term can also be used to describe how the wind blows (gently, lightly).

Wǒ gǎnjuédào yīzhèn qīngqīng de fēng.
I feel a waft of gentle breeze..

Fēng qīngqīng di (de) chuī.
The wind blows gently.

When the adverb is placed immediately before the verb it modifies, it usually takes on the suffix (di). Some pronounce as “de” when they use it as a suffix. Others simply use (de) for both adjectives and adverbs. It is also all right to omit the suffix from the adverb, as shown below.

Tā qīngqīng pāi wǒ yīxià.
She gently pats me once.
(She gives me a gentle pat.)

Kuài lái!
Come quicky!

Zhèi jiàn shì yào xiǎoxīn qù zuò.
This matter must be handled carfully.
(You must go about this carefully.)

Tā nǔlì gōngzuò.
He works hard.

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