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How Do We Cry out in Chinese?

Dec. 14, 2018

HSK 3 quiz

Interjections are commonly used in our daily life which are also known as “叹词 (tàncí)” or “感叹词 (gǎntàncí)” in Mandarin Chinese. These kinds of expressions are used in our daily lives to express exclamations or make various kinds of emotional responses.

It happens every day! We use interjections or exclamations to express our emotional responses to things or to emphasize or exclaim when speaking with people. In Chinese, these are called “叹词 (tàncí)” or “感叹词 (gǎntàncí).” There are obviously many words that are commonly used, and I will introduce one of them today.

哎呀 (Āiya)

(1) It can be used to express surprise or admiration like something similar to: “Oh! Wow!”

Surprise:

These two ladies haven’t seen each other since Lisa attended Tina’s daughter’s first birthday party. One day Tina went out with her daughter and happened to meet Lisa.

Lisa: Zhè shì nǐ de nǚér ma?
Lisa: 这是你的女儿吗?
Lisa: Is this your daughter?

Tina: Shì a.
Tina: 是啊。
Tina: Mmmhmm.

Lisa: Āiya, tā dōu zhǎng zhème gāo la.
Lisa: 哎呀,她都长这么高啦。
Lisa: Wow, she has gotten so tall.

Admiration:

Calvin is walking down the street with his new girlfriend Emily. In the coffee shop, they meet Calvin’s aunt Susan.

Susan: Āiya, nǐ nǚpéngyou hǎo piàoliang a, shēncái yě hǎo jí le!
Susan: 哎呀,你女朋友好漂亮啊,身材也好极了!
Susan: Oh my Godness, your girlfriend is so pretty, and her figure is fabulous!

Calvin: Hāhā, āyí, nà shì kěndìng de, wǒ nǚpéngyou shì xiàohuā ne.
Calvin: 哈哈,阿姨,那是肯定的,我女朋友是校花呢。
Calvin: Haha, of course auntie, my girlfriend is our school’s beauty queen.

(Do you Know How to Describe the Beautiful Girl in Chinese?)

(2) “哎呀 (Āiya) Oho/Oh” is a frequently used exclamation. As we can see, Susan uses this phrase to show her surprise and admiration after seeing Calvin’s girlfriend Emily. But, do you know “哎呀 (āiya)” can also be used to complain or to express one’s doubt, discontent, and impatience? It’s kinda like “Oh My Gosh! Oh My God!”

Let’s take a look:

Complaining:

Lǎogōng: Āiya, lǎopó, nǐ yòu mǎi yīfu le? Zhè ge yuè nǐ yǐjīng mǎi le sì jiàn yīfu le.
老公: 哎呀,老婆,你又买衣服了?这个月你已经买了四件衣服了。
Husband: Oh my gosh, are you serious? Honey, did you buy clothes again? You’ve already bought 4 items of clothing this month.

Lǎopo: Lǎogōng, wǒ yǐjīng mǎi le ma, nǐ shuō wǒ yě méiyòng a.
老婆: 老公,我已经买了嘛,你说我也没用啊。
Wife: Hubby, I’ve already bought them, so it doesn’t do any good to complain about it.

Impatience:

Milly: Āiya, jiějie, nǐ fán sǐ le, ràng wǒ zài shuì huìr ma!
Milly: 哎呀,姐姐,你烦死了,让我再睡会儿嘛!
Milly: Ugh, sis, you’re annoying me. Let me sleep a little longer!

Phoebe: Bùxíng, tàiyáng dōu shàidào pìgǔ shàng le, qǐchuáng!
Phoebe: 不行,太阳都晒到屁股上了,起床!
Phoebe: No, you’re burning daylight! Get up!

(3) It can refer to express panic which means “Ahhh! Oh No!”

Panic:

Linda: Āiya, yéye xīnzàng bìng fāzuò la.
Linda: 哎呀,爷爷心脏病发作啦。
Linda: Oh my god, Grandpa is having a heart attack.

Jack: Zhàogù hǎo tā, wǒ mǎshàng dǎ jíjiù diànhuà.
Jack: 照顾好他,我马上打急救电话。
Jack: You watch him! I’ll call 120. (The emergency number in China is 120.)

(4) It is also used to express anxiety which means “Alas/Oh Shoot!”

Anxiety:

Nancy: Āiya, diànyǐng yǐjīng kāishǐ la, tā zěnme hái méi lái ya.
Nancy: 哎呀,电影已经开始啦,她怎么还没来呀。
Nancy: Oh shoot! The film has already begun. Why hasn’t she come yet?

Taylor: Dàgài shì yǒu shì dānwù le ba. 
Taylor: 大概是有事耽误了吧。
Taylor: She probably got delayed with something.

(How to Distinguish “左右 (ZuǒYòu)” And “大概 (DàGài)?”)

So as you can see, there are many meanings for this interjection “哎呀 (āiya)” depending on the context, the conversation, and the tone with which you say it.

HSK 3 quiz

1. Read the dialogue and answer the question below.

Wáng Qīng: Āiya, nǐ yòu cǎi dào wǒ de jiǎo la.
王青: 哎呀,你又踩到我的脚啦。

Lì Lì: Bàoqiàn, wǒ búshì gùyì de.
丽丽: 抱歉,我不是故意的。

Which of the following can be inferred from the dialogue? Please choose the best answer.

A. Wang Qing is complaining that Li Li stepped on her foot.
B. Wang Qing feels sorry for stepping on Li Li’s foot.
C. Wang Qing didn’t think Li Li had stepped on her foot on purpose.

See Answer Analysis

Learn More Ways to Express Surprise Or Shock in Chinese:
Oh My God, So That’s What “我的妈呀! (Wǒ De Mā Ya)” Means!
我的神啊 (Wŏ De Shén A) My God & 你太有才了 (Nĭ Tài Yŏu Cái Le) You Are Too Talented
My God! 天哪!(Tiān Na) (Beginner)

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