Time flies in Chinese

手表 (shǒubiǎo) Wrist Watch

手表 (shǒubiǎo) Wrist Watch

Hòutiān shì dàniánchūyī.
It will be the lunar New Year’s Day the day after tomorrow.

Chūnjié kuài yào dào le.
Soon it will be the Spring Festival.

Another lunar year has slipped away. Time flies. It zips by like an arrow – 光阴似箭 (guāngyīnsìjiàn).

Following are the lyrics from a cute children’s song (author unknown) that uses the movement of the pointers on a traditional clock face to remind people how time passes relentlessly and why we must not waste time. On a clock, 时针 (shízhēn) is the hour hand (long hand), 分针 (fēnzhēn) is the minute hand (short hand), and 秒针 (miǎozhēn) is the second hand.

时针慢走, 秒针急.
Shízhēn màn zǒu, miǎozhēn jí.
The hour hand moves slowly, the second hand rushes on.

滴答, 滴答, 滴.
Dīda, dīda, dī.
Ticktock, ticktock, tick.

Fēnzhēn gēnzhe zǒu xiàqu.
The minute hand follows along.

滴答, 滴答, 滴.
Dīda, dīda, dī.
Ticktock, ticktock, tick.

Yīshíyīkè bù tíngliú.
Not stopping for a single moment,

zhěngtiān zhěngyè zǒu xiàqu.
all day, all night, they continue on.

Ruò bù jíshí duō nǔlì,
If you don’t work hard now,

hǒuhuǐ láibují.
it will be too late to regret later on.

On the first line, (màn slowly) serves as an adverb that modifies the verb (zǒu). When these two words are combined together, the phrase takes on a few different extended meanings, depending on the context. 慢走 (màn zǒu) means “Don’t go yet.” or “Wait a minute.” On the other hand, when you see a guest off after a party and say 慢走 (màn zǒu), you are saying, “Take care.”, “Walk slowly (safely).”, or “Good-bye.”.

(jí) means anxious or anxiously.

及时 (jíshí) means in time (not missing the deadline).

停留 (tíngliú) is to stay. On this line, 不停留 (bù tíngliú) is the combination of (bù not) and 停留 (tíngliú stay). The context tells us not to read it as 不停 (bù tíng without stopping, continue to) and (liú stay), which makes no sense.

Some people use 成天成夜 (chéngtiān chéngyè all day all night) instead of 整天整夜 (zhěngtiān zhěngyè). These adverbs pertain to duration or frequency of doing something. Read Chapter 18 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to learn more words in this category.

努力 (nǔlì) means to exert effort or to try hard. (nú) means slaves. (lì) means strength, power or making every effort. You can see how much effort is embedded in the word 努力 (nǔlì).

来不及 (láibují) can mean too late, or it can mean not having enough time to do something.

快点儿, 要来不及了.
Kuài diǎnr, yào láibují le.
Hurry up, or we’ll not be able to make it.

By the way, if you’ve not been able to keep the resolution you made for the new calendar year, there is an opportunity to renew it for the Chinese New Year, which is what matters to most Chinese people anyway.

Happy New Year!

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