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Learn “完蛋了(wándàn le)” if you are “Over With” (Advanced)

Sep. 1, 2016

Has your boat ever “gone under?” We have all been in those doomed situations, sometimes. In English, you may say that you are “done for,” “sunk,” or “have gone to the dogs.” In Chinese, you can say “完蛋了 (wándàn le).” Your business is closing? The bicycle is out of control and will soon crash into a tree? Our team is down 63 points with only five seconds left? For all of these scenarios, you can use “完蛋了 (wándàn le).” There isn’t even any hope!

“完蛋了 (wándàn le)” means “to be sunk,” “to be all over with,” or “to have no hope in something.” This is mostly a daily expression we use frequently in bad situations. We often shorten “完蛋了 (wándàn le)” into “完了 (wánle),” but you can use either expression. Let’s break it down:

“完 (wán)” literally means “over/finish”
“蛋 (dàn)” means “egg”

I know what you’re thinking: if “完 (wán)” can express the meaning of “finished” completely, why do we add the character “蛋 (dàn) egg,” anyway? Sounds weird!

There are two explanations regarding how the “蛋 (dàn) egg” reference came about:

(1) In Chinese, eggs which cannot hatch into a baby chick when the incubation period is over are called “完蛋 (wándàn),” which again, means “over/no hope.”

(2) Additionally, the pronunciation of “蛋 (dàn) egg” is similar to the spoken “dangs” in the “苗语 (miáoyǔ) Hmong language,” which is spoken by a minority of Chinese: the 苗族 (miáozú) who live mostly in Guizhou Province. “Dangs” also means “finished, broken , dead, destroyed” in “苗语 (miáoyǔ) Hmong,” so it has the same meaning as “完 (wán)” in standard Chinese. Kind of makes sense now, right?

Let’s look at some examples of the “doomed” expressions in these sentences:

Nǐ wándàn le!
你 完蛋     了!
You will be finished!

Rúguǒ zhè jiàn shìqíng chùlǐ bù hǎo, wǒmen dōu huì wándàn.
如果     这  件    事情    处理 不  好,我们     都    会   完蛋.
We will be done for if we can’t handle this issue properly.

Yào shì gǎn bú shàng fēijī, nǐ jiù wán(dàn) le.
要    是  赶   不  上   飞机,你 就   完 (蛋)   了.
You will be ruined if you can’t catch the plane.


1. You can use the expression “完蛋了 (wándàn le)” if:

A. you find your keys after losing them
B. you meet your friends for lunch
C. you do well in a job interview
D. you are going to be late for an important meeting
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