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A Disappearing Act with “一溜烟 (Yí Liù Yān)”

May. 4, 2018

HSK 3 quiz

In English it is common to compare someone running away quickly to a cloud of dust. In Chinese, there’s a similar slang word– “一溜烟 (yí liù yān),” which can be used instead. This word is fast as lightning, leaves smoke trails, and is its own disappearing act. With those English idioms you’ve got a pretty good idea how to use “一溜烟 (yí liù yān)” now.

Let’s break it down:
一溜烟 (Yí liù yān): run away swiftly.

一 (): one.

溜 (Liù): slippery.

烟 (Yān): smoke, tobacco.

In daily life conversation this word is often used to describe children who run away quickly after doing something naughty. You can imagine how quickly the children would run if an adult discovered their mischief. Imagine for a moment that a shop clerk approached a boy that was standing in an aisle alone for a long time. As soon as the boy sees the clerk come near, he takes off running! Was the boy stealing? Was he embarrassed? Who knows? The only thing that’s for certain is:

Nà nánhái yíliùyān pǎo le.
那  男  孩  一溜烟   跑  了。
That boy ran away swiftly.

Common structure:
Subject + 一溜烟 + verb + 了.

Try to make your own sentence using the sentence structure above.

HSK 3 quiz

Another example is to use an animal or something else fast to add imagery into your sentence.
Tā xiàng gè tùzi yíyàng, yíliùyān jiù pǎo yuǎn le.
他   像   个兔子  一 样,一溜烟  就  跑    远  了。
Like a rabbit, he ran away swiftly.

What else can we substitute for rabbit? What about a cheetah, Super Man, or even a jet plane? Don’t forget practice by commenting below with your new sentence.

1. Read the sentence below and answer the question:

Tīngshuō xiàozhǎng lái le, Jim yíliùyān jiù pǎo le.
听     说    校    长     来了,Jim一溜烟 就  跑  了。

Which of the following statements is true?

A. The headmaster saw that Jim was smoking.
B. Jim ran away when the headmaster come.
C. The headmaster caught Jim.
See Answer Analysis

Read More:
Stealing in Silence
Fast or Slow?

— Written by Julia Liu —
Julia teaches Chinese with eChineseLearning. She has been successfully teaching for 5 years and loves reading and practices her passion of drawing in her free time.

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