Mandarin Monday, 第四课

by Sue

Mandarin Monday was started to help me remember the Chinese I was regretfully slowly forgetting. By informing others and writing about vocabulary, phrases, and grammar along with tidbits about Chinese culture, I hope to not only relearn the language but also help others learn as well. I welcome questions and criticisms if you find that my grammar is incorrect; contact me in comments or my e-mail: sue[@]madeinkowloon[.]com. Thank you!

I’m going to interrupt our scheduled programming (survival expressions and questions to ask for and on a date) to bring you the MANDARIN MONDAY HOLIDAY EDITION! Sorta. I dropped the ball and forgot the Christmas sayings, but there’s always next year!


zhù nǐ xīn nián kuài lè
wish you new year 快 乐 happy = I wish you a happy new year!

“Happy” is a two-character word. In Chinese, there are a lot of joint words like this. Sometimes, each word will mean something completely different if standing on its own. For example, means “fast,” and is typically associated with “music.” I guess in this case, if you like mnemonics, you could say fast music makes people happy? Or fast music is generally associated with happy things? Haha you get the idea; I quit.


zhù nǐ zài xīn de yī nián lǐ wàn shì rú yì
wish you at new 的一年 year inside 10000 things 如意 success!= I wish you a lot of success in the new year.

Sometimes there are individual characters that do not transliterate into English. There’s an ‘idea’ but there isn’t an overall word to express the idea, so the character requires another character to actually create a real word. “” (yì) is that character; the meaning or the idea is “good,” so to add “” (rú, which by itself transliterates to “if”) yields “success.” Don’t ask me how or why it does because I don’t know either, but if I come across an explanation, I’ll be very happy to enlighten!

Other words/ phrases that incorporate “” include 意思 (yì si), which actually means “meaning/ to have meaning” and 有意思 (yǒu yì si), which translates to “interesting.”

In the middle of that saying, I didn’t simply write “新年” (xīn nián) to express “new year;” I’ve inserted “的一” (de yī) between the phrase. From Lesson 2, you learned “” is the number 1. “” is a possessive, modifying or descriptive particle. Essentially, it is the equivalent of “apostrophe + s” structure in English. In this instance, “的一” means “the one,” and to insert it in between “新年” modifies it to the extent that you’re wishing people they have success throughout their new year, instead of wishing them success only on New Year ’s Day.


nián nián yǒu yú
year year to have surplus!

There are certain words and phrases that do not translate well to the English language, and the above is an example of such an occurrence. However, from the transliteration of each word, you get the gist of the phrase. The Chinese say it often during Lunar New Year to express well wishes – more notably success. Like a lot of other cultures, success yields surplus. To have a successful year in agriculture is to have bountiful surplus of crops. To be successful in business or whatever yields surplus of money and thus a surplus of materialistic things. Yay for conspicuous consumption! Anyway… The duplication of “” is basically another way of saying “every year.”


zhù nǐ shēn tǐ jiàn kāng
wish you 身体 body 健康 healthy!= I wish you good health; I wish you a healthy life.

This is pretty standard. Again, there are the double-character words. For “身体” (shēn tǐ ), each individual character means or implies the word “body.” Some examples include, “corpse” – 尸体 (shī tǐ) and “on the body (physical or otherwise)” – 身上 (shēn shang). A great way of using the latter phrase is by saying:

“Leave it to me!”
(package) (at) (me/ I) 身上 (body)!
bāo zài wǒ shēn shang!

An example of how to use this phrase in conversation:

A: “晚上 (evening) (you) (buy) (vegetables), (do) (rice [the cooked version])!”
wǎn shàng nǐ mǎi cài, zuò fàn
“Tonight, you buy the groceries/ vegetables and cook!”

B: “包 在 我身上!
“Leave it to me!”

So with that, thanks for reading! (me/ I, wǒ) (will, huì) 包在你 (you, nǐ) 身上 [I will leave it to you] to review the previous lessons. The next time we meet, it will be 二零一零年 (2010, èr líng yī líng nián)! 祝你们 (you all, nǐ men) 新年快乐 (zhù nǐ men xīn nián kuài lè)!