In a Losing Situation, You May Be “倒贴 (dàotiē)”!

Chinese General daotie

Do you ever put in more than you receive? Philosophers say that giving, not receiving, is the true path to happiness. However, sometimes you find yourself “in over your head” and losing money on an investment of your time and finances. Other times, you spend your time and effort trying to impress someone but with no results. It’s frustrating!
In Mandarin Chinese we have a verb that describes this disappointing effort with no results. We use the word “倒贴 (dàotiē)” for this. Essentially, it means “to lose” but has another popular application as well.
Let’s break it down:
倒贴 (dàotiē) = a verb, meaning to lose money instead of making money; to pay for the keeping of an unprofitable business; to lose money unexpectedly.

倒 (dào) = to fall;

贴 (tiē) = to stick.

倒贴 (dàotiē) also has another application applying to a woman investing effort (and money) in a man. More on that later.

Use #1:

The most common meaning of “倒贴 (dàotiē)” is “to lose money” when you should be making money. It can be applied in business, in some real estate venture, or any other situation in which you’re at a loss and “in over your head”.


Zhè cì de shēngyì, wǒmen dàotiē le hěn duō qián.
这  次 的    生意,我们     倒贴   了 很   多   钱。
We lost a lot of money in this business.

Use #2:

This meaning is more difficult to explain in English, as there’s no easy translation for this situation. “倒贴 (dàotiē)” can be used when a woman supports a man financially. The woman obviously knows that the man has no feelings for her. However, she still insists on helping the man out to express her love and dedication. Not exactly a winning situation!


Nán nǚ jiāowǎng shí, nǚ háizi zuì hǎo bú yào dàotiē.
男    女   交往    时, 女 孩子  最 好   不  要   倒贴。
Girls better be careful of paying when falling in love with a man.

So, when you’re in one of those two losing situations where you’re not making profit or building a healthy relationship, it’s likely you “倒贴 (dàotiē)”. Be careful!

HSK 3 quiz

1. In which situation could you use “倒贴 (dàotiē)”?
A. You open a new business and you slowly make profits.
B. You share the bills in a romantic relationship.
C. You did many things to please a man who doesn’t like you
D. Your boyfriend pays your bills as you finish your college degree.

―Written by Becky Zhang―

Becky Zhang is a teacher at 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!
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