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“打(dǎ) hit” doesn’t always mean “violent” in Mandarin (and find out why)

Apr. 4, 2015

When you first come to China, you will hear Chinese people say things like “打电话(dǎdiànhuà),” “打车(dǎchē),” “打球(dǎqiú),” etc. As you may know, “打()” basically means “hit,” “beat,” “break,” or “attack.” With so many meanings, it’s not surprising if you start to get confused. So the big question is, why do Chinese people “打() hit” so many things?

Actually, “打()” in spoken Chinese can be used along with many words, which transform the meaning to “produce,” “operate,” “buy,” etc., as seen in the phrase “打酱油(dǎjiàngyóu). “打()” can also mean “to play,” like “打篮球(dǎlánqiú) play basketball” and “打游戏(dǎyóuxì) play computer games,” but when used in “打工(dǎgōng) to work for someone else,” “打包(dǎbāo) to pack,” it takes on yet another meaning.

Here are some specific introductions of how to use several common phrases containing “打().”


The “打()” in “打酱油(dǎjiàngyóu)” means “to buy” and the phrase “打酱油(dǎjiàngyóu)” is “to buy some soy sauce.” This expression is derived from “打酒(dǎjiǔ),” a term that was used in old times, when people would often go to the wine store with empty bottles. Shopkeepers would then refill the bottles from large vats that were used to store the wine. This action of getting the wine is “打().”

Nowadays, “打酱油(dǎjiàngyóu)” has become a buzzword on the internet, referring to the act of avoiding discussion of politics and other sensitive topics. The phrase implies that a person simply gets close to have a look without actually joining in  the discussion. When used in daily conversations, the phrase means “having nothing to do with the matter or being a passerby.”


    Zuótiān de kǎoshì, nǐ kǎo de zěnmeyàng?
A: 昨天      的 考试,  你 考   得 怎么样?
    How was your examination yesterday?

     Kǎo de bùhǎo. dànshì méiguānxi, wǒ zhǐshì qù dǎjiàngyóu de.
B: 考    得  不好。  但是    没关系,     我  只是   去  打酱油       的。
    Not so good, but it doesn't matter because I don't care about the results.


“打车(dǎchē)” means taking a taxi. Alternatively, we can also say “打的(dǎdī).”

Nèigè gōngyuán tài yuǎn le,   wǒmen dǎchē qù ba!
那个   公园          太  远    了,我们      打车    去 吧!
That park is so far from here. Let’s go there by taxi!


“打电话(dǎdiànhuà)” certainly doesn’t mean to smash the phone or throw it onto the floor. The phrase refers to connecting with others by calling them. Essentially, it means “call” or “make a call.”

Jì de xià le  fēijī  jiù gěi wǒ dǎdiànhuà bàopíng'ān!
记 得 下 飞机 就  给  我  打电话       报平安!
Remember to call me to let me know you’ve arrived safely as soon as you get off the plane!

Xiǎo Lǐ měitiān wǎnshang dōuhuì gěi tā nǚpéngyou dǎdiànhuà.
小    李 每天      晚上          都会     给  他 女朋友        打电话。
Mr. Li gives his girlfriend a call every night.


“打字(dǎzì)” means to type.


Zhāng Jiāng dǎzì  fēicháng kuài.
张         江     打字  非常       快。
Zhang Jiang’s typing is really fast!


“打()” also refers to some bodily behaviors: “打哈欠(dǎhāqian)” and “打喷嚏(dǎpēntì)” mean to yawn and sneeze, respectively.


Nǐ  jīntiān zǎoshang lǎo dǎhāqian, zuó wǎn méi shuì hǎo ma?
你 今天    早上          老  打哈欠,   昨    晚   没    睡    好   吗?
You keep yawning this morning. Didn’t you get a good night’s sleep last night?

Wǒ zuìjìn gǎnmào le,   bùtíng de dǎpēnti.
我   最近  感冒       了,不停    地 打喷嚏。
I have got a cold these days and keep sneezing.


1. When we say “打电话(dǎdiànhuà),” to which of the following behaviors do we refer?

A. Throwing the phone onto the floor.

B. Hanging up the phone.

C. Calling someone.

2. If we say someone “打酱油(dǎjiàngyóu),” what might we mean?

A. He really likes soy sauce.

B. He acts like a passerby and doesn’t get involved in the drama that unfolds around him.

C. He is too careless and breaks things.

3. What’s the meaning of “他一直打喷嚏(Tā yìzhí dǎpēnti)”?

A. He always sneezes.

B. He always yawns.

C. He always hiccups.

See Answers


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