Before You Lend A Hand, Know 帮倒忙 (bāng dàománg)

Chinese General lend a hand

I’m going to introduce a Chinese word that is useful to everyday situations of human interaction. We often use it in group work or when trying to get things accomplished. The word is 帮倒忙 (bāng dàománg) and I’m going to explain how we use it amongst classmates from our Mandarin Chinese classes.
I’m a Chinese language student in Beijing. I’m surrounded by other non-Chinese learners of Mandarin throughout my day and also during class time. Us students have precious little time for one-on-one feedback with our native Chinese teachers about our speaking. Therefore, we often fall back and rely on each other to give advice on our speaking. As Chinese learners know, it’s not always wise to take Chinese speaking advice from non-Chinese due to the subtleness of the speaking tones. Likewise, if you’re non-native, maybe it’s not good to guide other students on their speaking.
We may have good intentions- just trying to help, or 帮忙 (bāngmáng), but in the end we may “do more harm than good”, or as we say in Chinese “帮倒忙 (bāng dàománg)”, trying to help but doing harm in the process.
帮 (bāng) = to assist; to support; to help.

倒 (dào) = to fall; to fail; reverse.

忙 (máng) = busy; hasten; hurry.

Someone who has good intentions and is trying to help “帮忙 (bāng máng)” may actually end up making things worse “帮倒忙 (bāng dàománg)”.

Examples of how to use “帮倒忙 (bāng dàománg)” in a sentence:

Tā běnlái xiǎng bāngmáng, dàn shíjì shàng què shì zài bāng dào máng.
他   本来    想      帮忙,     但  实际   上     却   是 在   帮     倒   忙。
No doubt he means to help, but in fact he just gets in the way.

Wǒ shénme dōu bùdǒng, qù le kěnéng huì bāng dàománg.
我   什么       都    不懂,  去 了   可能    会  帮     倒忙。
I don’t know anything. I may cause more trouble if I try to do something.


Jenny: Jack, nǐ zěnme le. Nǐ kàn shàng qù xīnqíng bú tài hǎo.
Jenny: Jack, 你  怎么  了. 你 看   上      去   心情   不  太 好!
Jenny: Jack, what happened? It seems you’re in a bad mood.

Jack: Shàngwǔ, wǒ zài bāng Lǐlǎoshī bānjiā de shíhòu, shuāi le hěnduō dōngxī,
Jack: 上午,        我  在  帮    李老师   搬家  的    时候,摔   了  很多    东西,
         wánquán shì zài bāng dǎománg, wǒ hěn nánguò.
         完全         是 在   帮    倒忙,      我  很    难过.
Jack: I broke a lot of things when I was helping Mr. Li to change houses this morning. I regret the trouble I caused.

Jenny: Méiguānxì, Jack! Dàjiā dōu zhīdào nǐ bú shì gùyì de.
Jenny: 没关系,   Jack! 大家   都   知道   你 不  是 故意 的.
Jenny: It doesn’t matter, Jack! We all know you meant no harm.

So, just like us foreign Chinese language students “helping” one other out and often passing along subtle mistakes in our Mandarin speaking, it’s possible that sometimes by trying to do good, you may actually do harm, despite your best intentions!

HSK 3 quiz

An example of how a Mandarin Chinese language student may end up “帮倒忙 (bāng dàománg)” to his or her classmates is by:
A. Recommending some good Mandarin Chinese movies to watch
B. Providing uncertain feedback and advice on Chinese speaking tones when the native-speaking Chinese teacher is not there to help
C. Taking a bike share to Chinese class together
D. Joining a study group with a native-speaking Chinese teacher

―Written by Philip Reed―

Philip Reed is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing. He has been studying for one year in China
and before that had an interest in Chinese at university in the U.S. He loves Chinese music and culture
and can sing a few Mandarin songs at the KTV when he has free time!

Chinese Popular Words (Fun Stuff) 
HSK Test
General Chinese (Beginner Level) 
General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top