Did You Just Deliberately Lose The Game?

Chinese General fangshui

One of my favorite things about Chinese is that it has a wide range of depth and meaning, especially when it comes to characters, or combinations of characters that have evolved into daily conversation piece over time. One such word is “放水 (fàngshuǐ)”.

It has, first, a very literal meaning:

放水 (fàngshuǐ): v. (of a reservoir) draw off; disembogue.

In some rainy seasons, there is too much water in the rivers or rice fields. People will use some tools to “放水 (fàngshuǐ)” for the safety or harvest.
放 (fàng): v. put, release, free, liberate.

水 (shuǐ): n. water.

You can imagine in ancient China this word would have been used a lot because agriculture, the seasons, and the harvest were so important to daily life. Here are some examples of how we use this word with the literal meaning nowadays:

Qǐng dǎkāi zhámén fàngshuǐ.
请      打开     闸门       放水。
Please open the gate to drain.

Zhè tiáo hé shénme shíhòu fàngshuǐ?
这   条    河   什么     时候      放水?
When does the river need to be drained?

But we don’t necessarily talk about the seasons, agriculture or the harvest as much now in the 21st century. So how do we use this word nowadays, in a more metaphorical way?

放水 (fàngshuǐ): verb. to deliberately lose a game or competition to an opponent.

People usually use “放水 (fàngshuǐ)” to talk about someone would have been able to win a game or competition, but for some reason or another, deliberately loses the game/competition. Usually, this kind of situation happens because of some secret deal, internal relations between teams, players, coaches, etc. or some special tactical arrangements so that one party is favored over another.


Dàjiā dōu zài cāicè shì bú shì huángmǎ gùyì fàngshuǐ shūle zhè chǎng bǐsài.
大家   都   在  猜测  是  不  是    皇马     故意   放水      输了   这   场     比赛。
We are all wondering if Real Madrid deliberately lost the game.

Qǐng nǐ búyào zài bǐsài de shíhòu fàngshuǐ.
请  你   不要    在  比赛  的   时候     放水。
Please don’t deliberately lose in the game.

Can you practice using this word in your own sentence? Write one below!

HSK 3 quiz

1. What does this sentence “Jason在游泳比赛中给Kombi放水了 (Jason zài yóuyǒng bǐsài zhōng gěi Kombi fàngshuǐ le)” mean?
A. Kombi deliberately drained water from the swimming pool in the competition.
B. Jason deliberately lost to Kombi in the swimming competition.
C. Jason won Kombi in the swimming competition.
D. Kombi put enough water in the swimming pool before the competition.

―Written by Becky Zhang―

Becky Zhang is a teacher at eChineseLearning.com. She has over eight years of experience teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreign students and promoting Chinese culture. She lives in Beijing but loves traveling to ancient Chinese villages. One day she’d like to be a tour guide in China!
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