File a complaint by using “吐槽 (tǔcáo)”

Everyone makes mistakes, right? Are we never allowed to complain just a bit? Well, when you’ve just about had enough of something (or someone), you can use the verb “吐槽 (tǔcáo)” to playfully express your discontent, or simply to complain about something or someone. You may use it to point out that someone is at fault for an unpleasant or uncomfortable situation. However, it’s not always used negatively. With close friends, we can use “吐槽 (tǔcáo)” to humorously tease each other.

In today’s online world, “keyboard supermen” are often more vocal about their criticizing things than they would be face-to-face in public. Therefore,  “吐槽 (tǔcáo)” is now becoming more widely-used in Chinese society, both in person and online, these days. Let’s break it down:

“吐槽 (tǔcáo)” literally means “to spit in someone’s bowl”
吐 (tǔ): v. to vomit/to throw up
槽 (cáo): n. trough/manger/groove/channel

As you see above, the literal meaning of “吐槽 (tǔcáo)” is not pretty. It uses some vulgar language and is applied to situations that are less than pleasant. However, with a smile and a wink, we can soften it up into a playful tease. Let’s put “吐槽 (tǔcáo)” to work:


Jenny tǔcáo tā nán péngyou zuótiān zuò de fàn hěn nánchī.
Jenny 吐槽  她  男     朋友     昨天     做   的  饭  很   难吃。
Jenny criticized that her boyfriend made a terrible dinner yesterday.

Wǎngyǒu tǔcáo zhè bù diànyǐng yìdiánr dōu bù hǎo kàn.
网友          吐槽  这   部   电影    一点儿   都   不   好看。
Online friends criticized that the movie was very bad.

Tā zǒngshì tǔcáo gōngzuò yālì tài dà, xiǎng cízhí huíjiā.
他    总是    吐槽    工作    压力 太 大,想  辞职  回家。
He always complains that there’s too much pressure at work, and he wants to quit his job and go back home.

HSK 3 quiz
1. What do the Internet words “吐槽 (tǔcáo)” mean?
A. to complain about something
B. to praise something
C. to comment on something
D. to suggest something

5 thoughts on “File a complaint by using “吐槽 (tǔcáo)””

    1. jennifer.zhu

      Wow, great! You got the correct answer! We will keep updating more posts, please feel free to check and hope they can help you learn Chinese well.

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