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How to Call Your Ex in Chinese?

Oct. 23, 2013

In the Chinese language, a word could have many different meanings when used in different situations. Today, let’s talk about the word “前(qián).”

Generally, “前(qián)” means “the position in front.”

Example

Wǒ jiā qiánmiàn yǒu yì tiáo hé.
我   家 前面        有   一 条   河。

 

There is a river in front of our house.

“前(qián)” can also mean “earlier.”

Example

Nǐ yīnggāi zài jiǔdiǎn qián wánchéng rènwù.
你  应该    在  九点    前     完成          任务。

 

You should finish your task before 9 o’clock.

In addition, “前(qián)” means “priority in order.”

Example

Qián sānmíng dōushì nǚshēng.
前      三名       都是     女生。

 

The top three are girls.

Besides the meanings mentioned above, “前(qián)” can also indicate a kind of emotional relationship, equivalent to the English prefix “ex-.” It is usually added to nouns to show that someone is no longer the thing referred to by that noun, such as “前男友(qián nányǒu) ex-boyfriend” “前女友(qián nǚyǒu) ex-girlfriend.” Here, we use the shortened form of “男朋友(nán péngyou)” and “女朋友(nǚ péngyou)” as “男友(nányǒu)” and “女友(nǚyǒu).”

Examples:

Tā shì wǒ de qián nányǒu.
他  是  我  的  前    男友。

 

He is my ex-boyfriend.

Wǒ de qián nǚyǒu hěn piàoliang.
我   的  前    女友    很   漂亮。

 

My ex-girlfriend is very beautiful.

Similarly, in the relationship of couples we can use “前妻(qiánqī) ex-wife” and “前夫(qiánfū) ex-husband.” In this example, "妻()" is short for “妻子(qīzi) wife,” and "夫()" is short for “丈夫(zhàngfu) husband.”

Exercises:

1. Last month you broke up with your girlfriend. Now she is your ___.

A. 前妻(qiánqī)

B. 女友(nǚyǒu)

C. 前女友(qián nǚyǒu)

2. What does “前(qián)” in “前男友(qián nányǒu)” mean?

A. ex

B. earlier

C. the position in front

See answer

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