When discussing “profit” or “profits” in Chinese, you’re going to need the words 获利 (huo4li4) and 盈利 (ying2li4)..

获利 translates to “earn a profit” or “make a profit”.

除非我们减免一些职员不然就不会获利。(We won’t make a profit unless we shed some staff)

盈利 is a more general word which describes “profit” or “profit-making”.

营销是一个强大的盈利来源 (Marketing is a powerful profit-making source)

我们的盈利达到了预定目标 (We reached our profit target)

Got any other finance-related vocab you’re itching to know? Drop a line using the comment function.



In this article, I will discuss the difference between 可能[ke3 neng2] and 可以[ke3 yi3] when both of them are translated as “may”.

可能 and 可以 have brought confusion to foreign learners by their similar English translation. However, the meaning of these two words in Chinese is very different. I will introduce the differences by using several examples.

我可能去看电影。[wo3 ke3 neng2 qu4 kan4 dian4 ying3] I might go to watch the movie.

我可以去看电影。[wo3 ke3 yi3 qu4 kan4 dian4 ying3] I can go to watch the movie.

The first example has an indication that there is a possibility for me to watch the movie. In other words, I might go to watch the movie or I might not go to watch it (my attendance therefore depends on external factors like my mood or availability). In terms of the second example, it refers to the ability that I am permitted to go to  the movie (this permission might have come from the speaker’s mother or his overbearing spouse).

他可能生病了。[ta1 ke3 neng2 sheng1 bing4 le] He may be sick.

他可以请假。[ta1 ke3 yi3 qing3 jia4] He can ask for leave.

Sentence 3 has the meaning that he has possibility to be sick but it is just a guess. Sentence 4 shows that he is permitted to ask for leave.

Therefore,可能 indicates the possibility for an action however 可以 refers to the permission which is necessary for the activity to take place.


In this article, I would like to discuss the vital difference between 没[mei2] and 不[bu4] when both of them are used to make a question sentence.

In Chinese language, apart from 吗 (ma), the other way to make a question sentence is to use the positive form of a word plus the negative form of the word. For instance, 你忙不忙?[ni3 mang2 bu4 mang2] (are you busy?) In this sentence the positive form is 忙 and the negative form is 不忙。 More examples can be: 你好不好?(ni3 hao3 bu4 hao3] (how are you?) 你看没看书?[ni3 kan4 mei2 kan4 shu1] (Have you read the book?/did you read the book?).

The difference between 不 and 没 is fundamentally semantic one. Both 不 and 没 can be used to negate an action ( or a verb, structurally speaking), but 不 is used to talk about you own intention, whereas 没 is used to negate a past fact.

EX:你吃没吃饭? Have you eaten (or not)?

EX:你吃不吃饭?Do you want to eat or not/Are you going to eat or not?

In most statements, 不 is usually used to describe the change of the state of something. However, 没 is usually to describe a negative fact.

EX:车不走了 (the car is not going anymore) in this sentence, it indicates the car was going/working but now it is not going/working anymore.

EX:车没走 (the car hasn’t gone) in this sentence, in indicates that the car is still here.

Enjoy it! Best wishes for a new year!

Thank you Delia

Michael and Jing

Both第一次[di4 yi1 ci4] and 头一次[tou2 yi1 ci4] mean “the first time”. However, there are several basic differences between the  usage of 第 and 头 which lead to  different meanings, which will be with several example sentences.

To begin with, 第 focuses on the previous times while 头 indicates the initial time, therefore 第三次 and 头三次 have dissimilar meanings. 第三次 means the third time whereas 头三次means the first three times.

考试[kao3 shi4] (exams) 成绩[cheng2 ji4] (results)

EX:这是我第三次的考试成绩。 This is the result of my third exam.

EX:这是我头三次的考试成绩。 These are the results of my first three exams.

Secondly, when 第 and 头 are coupled with 几[ji3] (how many), the usages of the two  phrases are different. 第几次 which means “how many times” is usually used in a question sentence. 头几次 meaning “the first few times” can be used in either a question sentence or a declarative sentence.

EX: 这是你第几次考试? How many times have you taken the exam?

EX:这是你头几次考试? Is this one of your first few exams?

EX:这是你头几次考试。This is one of my first few exams.

Finally, in Chinese “the first two times” is expressed as 头两次 instead of 头二次。However, 第二次is acceptable.


Today kicks off a new feature for us at MJChinese – a section of our site devoted to providing clarification on vocabulary use in Chinese, called “Nasty nuances!”

This feature will present bite-sized blog posts designed to demonstrate the different features, functions and subtle intricacies of words which translate similarly from Chinese -> English.

Our first stop is differentiating between 贷款 (dai4kuan3 - to get a loan) and 借债 (jie4zhai4 – to borrow money). 

First, a great quote relating to all things monetary:

“Borrow money from a pessimist – they don’t expect it back”—Janeane Garofalo

OK, now onto the serious stuff.  This time, our respective English translations “to get a loan” and “to borrow money”(fortunately) do contain some clues as to when each should be used. 

 “To get a loan” does sound rather official, and sure enough, we use 贷款 when we trudge to our local bank branch or credit institution for a loan. 

我同学要向银行贷款. (My classmate had to ask the bank for a loan)

In English, “to borrow money” can be used in both informal and formal contexts.  You can borrow money from a friend, a bank or a loanshark.  In Chinese, 借债 is usually employed in an informal sense, when you borrow money from a friend or close acquaintance.  On a more interesting note, 借债 can also be used for a loan from seedy underword figures, such as loansharks!

For instance, 明天早上我会向他借债 (Tomorrow, I will borrow some money from him)

It’s important to note that when constructing sentences when you are approaching somebody to request something, 向 (xiang4) is used.  This is a preposition which means “toward”.  If we deconstruct the use of 向 in the above sentence by interpreting the example sentence literally, we get:

Tomorrow morning I will toward him to borrow money.

This does make some sense! After all we need to approach the creditor(whether they be friend, financial institution or a more unscrupulous individual) in order to obtain a loan, so think of 向 in that sense, thereby making our literal translation somewhat more refined:

Tomorrow morning I will approach him to borrow money.

As such, remember that the preposition must follow the basic Chinese grammar structure, whereby 向 comes before the “target” of the request, which is then followed by the verb.

Happy studying!

Michael and Jing 

又 [you4] is usually used as an adverb or a conjunction in sentences. This article will introduce some  of the core usages of 又. Generally speaking, 又 means “again”, “and” and “but”. The meanings (and usage) will vary accordingly with different scenarios. 

1. In the sense of “again”, 又 can indicate disapproval or negative feeling. For instance:

今天又有考试。(There is another exam today).

明天又要下雨。(It’s going to rain again tomorrow)

昨天他又迟到。(He was late again yesterday)

All the above examples express the that actions or events (考试,下雨,迟到)have happened again, and can also convey that the instances have been ongoing for some time. 

2. In the sense of “and”, 又 usually connects two similar conditions or qualities. These qualities may be both positive or both negative (i.e.: utilising 不 + ADJECTIVE) For example:

他又高又帅。 (He is both tall and handsome).

这个房子又漂亮又干净 (This house is both beautiful and clean).

运动完后,我又不累又不饿 (Following exercise, I am neither tired nor hungry).

3. In the sense of “but”, this usage is normally is used in colloquial conversation. It is, for the student studying Chinese, very complicated to grasp.

Different from the two previous usages, this time 又 conjuncts two opposite decisions, feelings or conditions. In this sense, 又 leads to some comparisons of contrasting situations. For instance:

我之前想去游泳,现在又不想去了 (Before I wanted to go swimming, but now I don’t want to).

你刚才不是说要吃鱼吗? 现在又要吃鸡肉了?(Didn’t you just say you wanted to eat fish, but now you want to eat chicken?)

他刚和他女朋友分手,现在又有新女朋友。(He just broke up with his girlfriend, but now he has a new one).

 Good luck!

Jing and Michael

As a Chinese who has been learning English for almost 9 years, I still find that English is a tricky language for me to master. Apart from its seemingly endless vocabulary, different grammatical structures and tenses, I have to adjust to my response to some questions according to English logical thinking style. In contrast, there might be the same problems for students who are learning Chinese as a foreign language. For me, the most confusing one is this situation:

English Pattern                     

A: You don’t like Chinese?      

B: No (I don’t like it).     

Chinese Pattern


B:是的,我不喜欢汉语。(Yes, I don’t like Chinese)

When A asks “你不喜欢汉语吧?” the sentence conveys that A is guessing or conjecturing as to B’s fancies. As such, 是的(yes) is the initial response for A’s conjecture, then followed by a fuller answer to the question posed (see above). However, in English, the answer “yes” or “no” is often used to directly answer the question.  It is rare, among native English speakers, to see an amalgamated approach like the Chinese one which consists of two affirmations.  For a non-native English speaker, inferring the meaning from just a single affirmation without a follow-up sentence is a little confusing.  I guess it’s just another reason why we need extra patience when dealing with our foreign friends.