More Chinese expressions involving the hand

If you haven’t already found out, hand shadows are called 手影 (shǒu yǐng) in Chinese.
(yǐng) is a shadow, a reflection or an image. Nowadays, it is used in such words as 摄影 (shèyǐng photography) and 电影 (diànyǐng movies).

This may be a good time to take inventory of how many words, expressions or idioms you already know that contain the (shǒu) character. Here are a few more to add to your collection.

手背 (shǒubèi) is the back of the hand, while 手掌 (shǒuzhǎng) is the palm. The center of the palm is called 手心 (shǒuxīn) or 掌心 (zhǎngxīn).

We already know that 拍手 (pāishǒu) means to clap one’s hands. 鼓掌 (gǔzhǎng) has the same meaning but is a more formal word.

手下留情 (shǒuxiàliúqíng) means to show mercy or be lenient. In times past, when a Chinese house slave was about to be whipped, he might use this phrase to plead for mercy. Nowadays, this expression is used figuratively.

The expression 手下 (shǒuxià) also means under the leadership of someone.

他手下有三位能干的经理.
Tā shǒuxià yǒu sān wèi nénggàn de jīnglǐ.
He has under him three capable managers.

经理 (jīnglǐ) are managers, while 助手 (zhùshǒu) are assistants.

歌手 (gēshǒu) are singers. They probably prefer to be referred to as 歌星 (gē xīng music stars, pop stars).

高手 (gāoshǒu) is an expert or champion. Therefore, 武林高手 (wǔ lín gāoshǒu) is a kung-fu master. 数学高手 (shùxué gāoshǒu) is someone who is great at mathematics. You can easily form other terms by inserting the subject of your choice.

手机 (shǒujī) are mobile phones, 手表 (shǒubiǎo) are wrist watches, and 手电筒 (shǒudiàntǒng) are flashlights.

手枪 (shǒuqiāng) are pistols, while 枪手 (qiāngshǒu) are gunners.

We have learned before that 运气 (yùnqi) means one’s fortune or luck. Well, 手气 (shǒuqì) is one’s luck in a game of cards or gambling.

他今天手气不好.
Tā jīntiān shǒuqì bùhǎo.
He has poor hands today.

亲手 (qīnshǒu) means making something personally.

这件裙子是我母亲亲手做给我的.
Zhè jiàn qúnzi shì wǒ mǔqin qīnshǒu zuò gěi wǒ de.
My mother made this skirt for me herself.

The Chinese don’t stick their noses in other people’s business. Nay. They go in with their hands. 插手 (chāshǒu) means to have a hand in someone else’s business.

这件事你最好不要插手.
Zhè jiàn shì nǐ zuìhào bùyào chāshǒu.
It would be best if you don’t get involved with this matter.

(huò) means merchandise or goods. What would 二手货 (èrshǒuhuò) mean?

English-Chinese Homophones (3)

母牛 (mǔniú) Cow


Here are a few more English words that sound like Chinese words. These and the examples that I mentioned previously are not exhaustive by any means. You will discover many more on your own as you enlarge your Chinese vocabulary. As for the Chinese homophones, trust me, there are tons more. This is one of the reasons why the modern Chinese language is replete with polysyllable words. Combining a character with one or more other characters greatly reduces the ambiguity created by the homonyms of the individual characters.

Me (mì secret) (mì tight, dense, secret) (mì honey, sweet)

他是我的秘书.
Tā shì wǒ de mìshū
He is my secretary.

这是我的秘密.
Zhè shì wǒ de mìmì.
This is my secret.

不要听他的甜言蜜语.
Bùyào tīng tā de tián yán mì yǔ.
Don’t listen to his sweet talk.

May (mèi younger sister) (mèi charm, evil spirit)

他的妹妹很漂亮.
Tā de mèimei hěn piàoliàng.
His younger sister is very pretty.

他有政治魅力.
Tā yǒu zhèngzhì mèilì.
He has political charm.

One (wàn 10000, by all means) (wàn wrist)

万一下雨, 怎么办.
Wàn yī xiàyǔ,zěnme bàn?
In case it rains, what to do?
(This is a complex sentence.)

他的手腕高明.
Tā de shǒuwàn gāomíng.
His stratagem is brilliant.

Pie? (pái arrange, a row, discharge) (pái tag, sign, cards)

你这样安排, 很好.
Nǐ zhèyàng ānpái, hěn hǎo.
You’ve made a good plan.

你打扑克牌吗?
Nǐ dǎ pūkè pái ma?
Do you play poker?

Sue (sù tell, accuse) (sù velocity, quickly) (sù plain, non-meat, innate)

Well, in the sense of 诉讼 (sùsòng law suit, litigation), here we have a Mandarin English coincidence.

不要告诉她.
Bùyào gàosù tā.
Don’t tell her.

开车不要超速.
Kāichē bùyào chāosù.
While driving a car, do not break the speed limit.

她吃素.
Tā chīsù.
She is a vegetarian.

Tea (tì for, substitute for, on behalf of) (tì shave)

你代替我去, 好吗?
Nǐ dàitì wǒ qù, hǎo ma?
Go in my place, okay?

他替我剃了胡子.
Tā tì wǒ tì le húzi.
He shaved my beard for me.

我想买一把剃刀.
Wǒ xiǎng mǎi yī bǎ tìdāo.
I’d like to buy a razor.

Way (wèi for) (wèi flavor) (wèi)

她为你流了不少眼泪.
Tā wèi nǐ liú le bùshǎo yǎnlèi.
She shed a lot of tears for your sake.

这汤味道不错.
Zhè tāng wèidào bùcuò..
This soup taste pretty good (not bad).

我的胃不大舒服
Wǒ de wèi bùdà shūfu.
My stomach does not feel very well.

Yeo (yòu again) (yòu righthand side) (yòu young)

他又生病了.
Tā yòu shēngbìng le.
He fell ill again.

请靠右边走.
Qǐng kào yòubiān zǒu.
Please walk on the righ side.

这间幼儿园不错.
Zhè jiān yòuéryuán bùcuò.
This nursery school is not bad.

For your information, it’s not that easy to find commonly used Chinese characters that are without any homophones. Following are a few such loners:

(nín) is the polite form of you.

(sú) means a custom or convention. It also indicates vulgarness, as in:

他的穿着很俗气.
Tā de chuānzhuó hěn súqi.
His apparael shows poor taste.

(lū) is a grumble, a chatter, or a gurgling sound.

不知道他们叽哩咕噜地在说些什么.
Bù zhīdào tāmen jīligūlū de zài shuō xiē shénme.
Don’t know what they are jabbering about.

(xú) is a Chinese last name. It also means slow. This word is used more in writing than in everyday speech.

(bí) is the nose, which is usually referred to as 鼻子 (bízi).

(běi) is the north direction.

(gěi) is to give.

(shéi) means who.

(pāi) is to pat or to beat. It can also be used as a noun that means a clap, a slap, a swat or a musical beat. 拍手 (pāishǒu) is to clap one’s hands.

(gǎi) means to change or to alter.

她改变了行程.
Tā gǎibiàn le xíngchéng.
He changed his travel plan.

As a verb, (tòu) means to penetrate. As an adverb it means “thoroughly”. 透明 (tòumíng) means transparent. (tòu) sounds just like “toe”.

That’s it for now, folks. But wait, I hear a cow go, “Moo!”. Does she mean (mǔ mother, female [animal]) or (mǔ a unit of area, about 0.0667 hectare)?

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