Must-Know Uses of “大不了(dà bù liǎo)”!

Many phrases in spoken Chinese take on completely new meanings when just one or two words are changed. Take the phrase we will learn today for instance: “大不了(dà bù liǎo).” You will find that this versatile phrase is used a lot in daily conversations. Let’s have a look!

1. “大不了(dà bù liǎo)” = At worst

“大不了(dà bù liǎo)” always follows the speaker’s prediction of a worst case scenario, which shows his or her acceptance of what might possibly happen. Usually the phrase is used in the beginning or middle of a sentence.


Wǒ bùzhīdào chē néngbùnéng xiū hǎo, dà bù liǎo, wǒmen mǎi liàng xīn de.
我   不知道     车    能不能         修  好,大不 了, 我们       买  辆    新  的。
I don’t know if I can fix the car. At worse, we can buy a new one.

Dà bù liǎo wǒ bú gàn le!
大  不  了   我  不 干  了!
At worst I’ll quit the job!

2. “大不了多少(dà bù liǎo duōshǎo)” = Not much bigger/older than

“大不了多少(dà bù liǎo duōshǎo)” is used for comparative sentences:
“A + 比 + B + 大不了多少(A bǐ B dà bù liǎo duōshǎo),” meaning A is not much bigger/older than B.” Here “大(dà)” means “bigger” or “older.”


Zhège píngguǒ bǐ nàgè dà bù liǎo duōshǎo.
这个   苹果       比 那个  大 不 了   多少。
This apple is not much bigger than that one.

Tā bǐ wǒ dà bù liǎo duōshǎo.
她 比 我  大 不 了    多少。
She is not much older than me.

3. “没什么大不了(的)(méishénme dà bù liǎo(de))” = no big deal

Here “没什么大不了(的)(méishénme dà bù liǎo(de))” means that the present situation is not so bad or wouldn’t lead to a worse case. Similar to “大不了(dà bù liǎo),” this phrase also shows that the speaker cares little about the situation or result. The difference is that “大不了(dà bù liǎo)” emphasizes the following estimation of the worst result. Usually the phrase is used as a conclusion at the end of the sentence.


Nǐ zhǐshì chídào le yìdiǎndiǎn, méishénme dà bù liǎo.
你 只是   迟到   了 一点点,   没什么        大 不 了。
You’re only a minute late, it’s no big deal.

Xiǎohái zǒulù diēdǎo le, méishénme dà bù liǎo de.
小孩      走路  跌倒   了,没什么      大 不  了   的。
Kids just walk and fall down, it’s not a big deal.

What does “有什么大不了(的)(Yǒu shénme dà bù liǎo (de))” mean?

4. “有什么大不了(的)(Yǒu shénme dà bù liǎo (de))”?= What’s the big deal?

This sentence expresses the same meaning as “没什么大不了(méishénme dà bù liǎo)” and also shares the same usage. The only difference lies in its rhetorical question structure which carries a stronger tone.


Zhǐshì yígè chóngzi, yǒu shénme dà bù liǎo de?
只是   一个 虫子,   有   什么      大 不  了  的?
It’s just a tiny bug. What’s the big deal?

Zhǐshì diǎn xiǎoshāng, yǒu shénme dà bù liǎo?
只是    点    小伤,       有   什么      大 不 了?
It’s just a small cut. What’s the big deal?

HSK 3 quiz

1. 只是丢了几块钱 (Zhǐshì diūle jǐ kuài qián),   _____.
A. “大不了(dà bù liǎo)”
B. “大不了多少(dà bù liǎo duōshǎo)”
C. “没什么大不了的(méishénme dà bù liǎo de)”
2. Which of the following phrases means “Not much bigger/older than”?
A. “有什么大不了的(Yǒu shénme dà bù liǎo de)”?
B. “大不了多少(Dà bù liǎo duōshǎo).”
C. “大不了(Dà bù liǎo).”

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General Chinese (Beginner Level)
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0 thoughts on “Must-Know Uses of “大不了(dà bù liǎo)”!”

  1. Even 大不了,大不了多少, 没什么大不了,有什么大不了的 these all are very new for me, but I can use and deeply understand all of them after I’ve red the explanation and the sentences. And I can also use them in many ways!

    Thank you very much!

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