Learn “打听 (Dǎtīng)” for When You Need to Ask a Question

HSK 3 quiz

There are some words you hear over and over again once you begin living in China. As a student of Mandarin Chinese, the words may not be so familiar to us as we learn from textbooks and study for our Chinese exams. However, some words and expressions are used quite frequently on a daily basis in China. One of these words I’d like to introduce today is: 打听 (dǎtīng).
While studying in Beijing, “打听 (dǎtīng)” has made its way into myself and my classmates’ daily language. The word breaks down like this:
打听 (Dǎtīng) = to ask or inquire about something; to get “the scoop” on something.

打 (Dǎ) = a verb, meaning to hit, beat, or fight.

听 (Tīng) = a verb, meaning to hear, understand, or obey.

If we are curious and interested in someone or something, we use “打听 (dǎtīng)” to explain the research and inquiring we do to learn more. If we are annoyed or concerned about the constant barrage of questions we are receiving about our personal lives, or want pertinent information, we can also use “打听 (dǎtīng).”

Here are some examples of “打听 (dǎtīng)” in use:

Jack bú yuàn biérén dǎtīng tā de sīshì.
Jack 不   愿    别 人  打 听   他 的 私事。
Jack doesn’t want others prying into his affairs.

Lily xiǎng dǎtīng qù shěnyáng de huǒchē.
Lily   想  打   听  去    沈   阳    的  火  车。
Lily wants to inquire about the trains for Shenyang.

Wǒ dǎtīng dào le Sam de dìzhǐ.
我   打 听   到  了 Sam 的 地址。
I found out Sam’s address.

A Scenario:

Do you believe in “love at first sight”? Anne felt that way upon seeing a young and handsome man at a party. She desperately wanted to be the handsome man’s girlfriend, so she started to “打听 (dǎtīng) ask about” everything there is to know about this man from her friends who were at the party. She did her homework and then won him over the next time they met a few weeks later!

Extended Learning:

Due to the popularity of “打听 (dǎtīng)” in daily life, an associated word eventually also gained popularity: “包打听 (bāodǎtīng).” People use “包打听 (bāodǎtīng)” to refer to others as “detective”, “snooper”, or “meddler.” A “包打听 (bāodǎtīng)” is the kind of overly inquisitive person that can become annoying.


Nǐ zhēnshì gè bāodǎtīng a, shénme dōu xiǎng zhīdào.
你   真  是 个  包  打 听  啊,什  么   都     想    知 道。
You are really nosy and want to know everything.

Nàgè lǎofùrén shì gè bāodǎtīng, yīncǐ méiyǒu rén xǐhuān gēn tā shuōhuà.
那 个 老 妇 人  是 个  包  打听, 因此  没  有   人   喜 欢    跟  她   说  话。
That old lady is very meddling, so nobody likes to talk to her.

HSK 3 quiz

Kathy: Wǒ xiǎng xiàng nǐ dǎtīng yíxià Lily de xiāoxī, qǐngwèn nǐ zhīdào tā xiànzài zhù nǎ’r ma?
Kathy:  我    想     向     你  打 听 一 下 Lily 的 消 息,请   问 你  知 道   她  现 在   住  哪儿 吗?

Anne: Tā xiànzài zhù nánshān xuéxiào.
Anne: 她  现   在 住   南   山    学  校。

Kathy: Xièxie nǐ!
Kathy: 谢 谢 你!

What does the word “打听 (dǎtīng)” mean in the dialogue?
A. A detective
B. To ask about
C. To hit
D. A meddler

―Written by Elena Trevino―

Elena Trevino is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing studying the language to get a head start in international trade. She is most interested in seeing how Mandarin is affecting the fashion industry throughout the world as Chinese shoppers are now such a large factor. She is frequently attending fashion industry events in Beijing and throughout China.

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