Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Mandarin Moment

Hang on a sec', can I get your help quickly? Just hold this for a moment ... thanks, now take a quick look.

These are really common English phrases, and it's quite useful (nay, very useful) to be able to say it in Mandarin. Fortunately, in true WordPack style, there is a very familiar pattern that links these, and other similar phrases.

The pattern is:   一下

yí xià:  Literally this means "one down", but the dictionary translations look more like: one time / once / in a while / all of a sudden / give it a go (when used after a verb).

Here are some of the more common phrases that you'll hear, and certainly ones that you're very likely to use. If you're a little beyond beginner, then you probably already know most of the opening hanzi, in which case the phrases will be really easy to remember.

看一下: kàn yíxià: take a quick look
等一下: děng ​yíxià: wait a moment
让一下: ràng ​yíxià: literally this is "yield a moment", but it's used in the context of, for example, "Excuse me, can I get past you?"
拿一下: ná ​yíxià: hold this for a second
挑一下: tiāo yíxià: usually it's like "let me take my time to choose" (literally: choose a moment)

 Now that you've got these phrases sorted, take a moment ...


  1. Hi Greg. Nice wordpack, except... the tones for yixia is not correct (or so we learnt at uni). Yi is a very tricky word and in the combination "yixia" the tones are yi2xia4.

    But still, nice wordpack.


  2. Taming, you're absolutely correct, and I have corrected the post.

    I got a bit lazy with my copy & paste, and I didn't even notice that the dictionary uses yī​xià. If I'd copied from Nciku, for example, it would have (correctly) given yíxià.

    Well spotted.

  3. Greg I can't seem to find any means to PM you here or on Twitter. Can you please get in touch with me on - michaeldoroszuk at cyou - inc . com.

  4. Hey Greg! I just want to thank you for writing this post - nobody has ever taught me how to properly use 一下 and I pretty much learned while watching dramas. Thanks for the proper explanation!

    Also, I'd like to point out that when I wrote Mandarin Seg- on Google, the autocompleter read Mandarin Segments. Looks like you're getting really popular :)

    How are your studies going? :D


  5. First of all, I am a Chinese. It's a very interesting experience to see how foreigners teaching our native language. I found that foreigners could learn Chinese mush faster than we learned their languages. Why? According my observation, I think that's because both your teaching and learning are practical oriented rather than test oriented that what we do.

    By the way, I want to ask one simple question, how do you type the tone symbols above the pinyin characters? Thanks. P.S. Welcome to visit my learning Mandarin blog and leave your comments. Thank you.

  6. Kara: I'm glad you found it useful - good luck in using it. What other phrases are you learning from the daramas you watch? For example, in listening to Mandarin music, I hear lots of phrases about love, breaking-up, missing you, etc.

    apieceofcloud: thanks for your comments. You raise a good point about the difference between learning in a formal and in a practical way. I think sometimes it's less about which language it is that you are learning, and more about *where* you are learning.

    Although I'm native English-speaking, I learned two other languages at school - and yet I would say that I'm more comfortable with "pure conversation" with Mandarin after a couple of years of self-study, than the other two. Of course, my vocab in reading skills were much better than Mandarin (after 12 & 5 years of study each!) but I was never comfortable just chatting.

    I've glanced at your blog - looks interesting. Will take more time later this weekend to read in more detail.

  7. Here's another one I came across today:
    猜一下 (cāi​ yī​xià​)

    ... which basically means: "take a guess".