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“Life” Can Be sold in Chinese?

Oct. 16, 2013

In the Chinese language, many words, when combined with other words, will have different meanings. Today, let’s talk about the word “卖(mài).”

Generally, “卖(mài)” means “to sell,” usually we have “卖菜(mài cài) sell vegetables,” “卖报纸(mài bàozhǐ) sell the newspaper” “卖书(mài shū) sell books” etc.


Tā zài jiēshang mài bàozhǐ.
他  在  街上       卖   报纸。


He sells the newspaper on the street.

Tā zài wǎngshang mài dōngxi.
他  在  网上             卖  东西。


He sells things on the Internet.

Besides the general meaning, “卖(mài)” also has some other extended meanings.

Firstly, it means “to show off (usually on purpose).”


“卖萌(màiméng)” means to pretend to be cute; acting cute.

Nǐ dōu shì chéngniánrén le, jiù bú yào màiméng le.
你  都   是         成年人   了,就 不  要       卖萌   了。


Since you are an adult, don’t pretend to be cute.

“卖乖(màiguāi)” means to show off one’s cleverness. There is a saying “得了便宜还卖乖(dé le piányi hái màiguāi.),” which means “to have gained an advantage from something but to pretend otherwise.”

Wǒ gēn qítā rén bù yíyàng, wǒ bú huì dé le piányi hái màiguāi.
我    跟  其他 人  不    一样,我  不 会   得 了 便宜   还    卖乖。


I’m not like other guys. I don’t kiss and tell.

Secondly, it means to do one's best.


“卖力(màilì)” means to exert all one's strength.

Tā zuò shénme shì dōu hěn màilì.
他   做    什么     事  都    很   卖力。


He always exerts all his strength no matter what he does.

“卖命(màimìng)” means to work oneself to the bone for sb.

Fàngsōng diǎn, nǐ gōngzuò tài màimìng le.
放松            点,你   工作     太   卖命     了。


Just relax. You work too hard.

Thirdly, it also means “betray.”

“卖国贼(màiguózéi)” means a traitor. And it can also be used as a verb in the word “出卖(chūmài)” which means “to betray.”


1. John runs a book store. What does he do to make a living? ___

A. 卖书 (màishū)

B. 给书 (gěishū)

C. 说书 (shuōshū)

2. In which of the following words does “卖(mài)” mean “to show off?” ____.

A. 卖菜(màicài)

B. 卖国(màiguó)

C. 卖萌(màiméng)

See answer

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