Archive for the ‘Practical Chinese’ Category

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.





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 

A:” Hi, how are you?”
B:” I am fine, and you?
A:”I am fine, too. Thank you!”

My Senior High School textbook illustrates what Chinese consider as a typical Western greeting pattern.

But in everyday life, this greeting mode is seldom used. This situation happens in Chinese as well.

In Chinese, 你忙吗?[ni3 mang2 ma](Are you busy?) or 你最近怎么样?[ni3 zui4 jin4 zen3 me yang4] (How are you doing?) are not the most popular or authentic greetings for friends.

Next, several local and authentic greeting sentences will be displayed which are used by students in general.

  • “去哪儿?” [qu4 nar3] (Where are you heading to?)  This greeting can be extended into “去哪儿?去上班?”
  • “去干嘛呢?”[qu4 gan4 ma2 ne] (What are you going to do?)
  •  “课多吗?”[ke4 duo1 ma] (Do you have a lot of uni work?) This one is for students as well.


China is renowned for plentiful markets, large shopping districts and cheap items.  Moving away from travel pocketbook phrases such as “多少钱?”  (How much?), how can we competently discuss clothing preferences and tastes in Chinese?  This instalment of Practical Chinese has the answer.

When consulting with a friend about which item is the best, or our own personal preference, the following sentence pattern is useful:

你最喜欢哪一件?(Which one do you like the best?)

Note that the final measure word, 件 (jiàn), applies to most articles of clothing.  However, long, thin objects (ties, trousers, belts, etc) are taken by 条 (tiáo) while a pair of something (socks, shoes, etc) is taken by 双 (shuāng). 

A good response (in terms of an answer –> reason –> interaction structure) would be something like:

我最喜欢 [那件]。我觉得它很 [新潮] 。你觉得呢?

(I like that one.  I think it looks trendy.  What do you think?)

(NOTE: the phrase(s) in the square brackets are interchangeable)

Where one is surrounded by many different items of clothing, prefacing the above sentence with the phrase 这些 [皮衣] 中 (Among these [leather jackets]) makes the sentence more specific.  In its completed form, it should read

这些皮衣中,你最喜欢哪一件?(Among these leather jackets, which one do you like the best?)

If you can’t see anything you like, you can say 我没有喜欢呢 (I don’t like anything here)

If your friend or shopping buddy has picked up an unfashionable item from the rack, preface your opinion with phrases like 对我来说 (To me) or 说实在的 (Frankly speaking) to clearly illustrate the subjectivity of your answer – let’s try not to offend anybody!

If you would like to make some negative comments about an article of clothing, you can use: 难看 (ugly), 丑 (chǒu) (ugly), 好老 (old-fashioned) or 廉价 (lián jià) (cheap-looking; not tasteful).  You can additionally use the verb 讨厌 (tǎo yàn) (To dislike) as a (stronger) alternative to 不喜欢.

To praise an item, you can use 好看 (looks nice), 新潮 (xīn cháo) (trendy), 漂亮 (pretty), 合适 (suitable) or 时髦 (shí máo) (fashionable).

Happy shopping!

Michael and Jing

Before you pay a visit to China, we highly recommend you read this article. It is a brief guide to different forms of accommodation in China.

 In general, a hotel in Chinese is called 酒店 [jiu3dian4],饭店 [fan4dian4] or 宾馆 [bin1guan3]. Although 酒店 can literally translate into “liquor shop” and 饭店 can literally be read as “food shop”, they are, in actual fact, a hotel equipped with a bar or restaurant.

However, whether a 宾馆 has a restaurant or a bar depends on its scale. So if you are looking for a hotel, don’t hesitate to walk in a hotel called ××酒店 or ××饭店.

 A guest-house in China can be called 旅馆[lü3 guan3] or 旅店[lü3 dian4]. It has relatively cheap price compared with 酒店, 饭店 and 宾馆. Although it is a kind of budget hotel, some 旅馆 or 旅店 may have full facilities such as a restaurant.

 Finally, a typical Chinese word for accommodation is called 招待所 [zhao1dai4suo3] which means hostel. Usually a 招待所 is very exclusive and belongs to a governmental bureau. For instance, 教育局招待所 (Education Bureau hostel) only offers service for the staff working in the education department or their relatives. Nowadays, 招待所 are increasingly less exclusive and provide accommodation and food for the public. This is a subsidized form of accommodation.


Michael and Jing

In Chinese, the particle  一边 is used to show that two actions are occurring simultaneously.  For instance 咱们一边喝果汁, 一边聊天 (As we drink fruit juice, we chat). 

The consequent structure is [subject] +[optative verb] + [一边] + [predicate],  [一边] +[predicate].  The subject can be omitted if well-known to the speakers.

Further examples include:

我一边用QQ,一边吃些点心 (As I’m using QQ, I eat some snacks) **  For the uninitiated, QQ is a Chinese social networking website.  

她一边坐地铁,一边看报 (As she rides the subway, she reads the newspaper)

他不可以一边写英文的文章,一边练习汉子 (He can’t write an essay in English while practicing Chinese characters)

However, there exists another, more colloquial way to express simultaneous actions. 

北方人到茶馆去的时候,他们喝茶听戏。(When Northern Chinese go to a tea house, they drink tea while listening to a performance)

Here, 他们喝茶听戏 the verb-oject combinations follow each other.  However, this does create some ambiguity, as it could be interpreted that, Northern Chinese drink tea before listening to a performance.

As such, the use of 一边, although a tad formal, specifically expresses the nature of simultaneous actions.

Michael and Jing

I just wanted to share a great little sentence pattern I picked up today. 

Verb + 不动 + 了 means “I can’t perform x anymore.”  For instance, 我跑不动了 (I can’t run anymore) or 我爬不动了 (I can’t climb anymore).

The implication of 不动了 is that the speaker has run out of energy, or is too tired to perform the verb.  

The inclusion of 不动 is therefore exceptionally vivid – the speaker is so exhausted that they (if the Hanzi are read literally) cannot move!

了 indicates that the state has recently changed, and that the lack of energy/onset of tiredness has just hit home.

So, having written all of that – I’m pretty tired too.  It must be time to 睡觉!