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“Oh My tiān nǎ”! And Other Ways to Say ‘OMG’ in Chinese

Dec. 16, 2020

If someone asks how to say, “OMG” in Chinese, are they really asking about the literal translation of “Oh my god”? Of course not; they’re asking how to express and evoke the same emotion when speaking Chinese.

The English emotion and version of this expression is actually not a foreign one to Chinese people – the popular online salesman/influencer/live streamer/”lipstick brother” Li Jiaqi often says, “Oh my god!” in live broadcasts and product reviews, and his particular way of saying it has become his hallmark.

In today’s article about “Oh my god!”, we’ll cover the Chinese phrases that you blurt out without thinking when you have a certain emotion.

1. 我的天哪 (wǒ de tiān nɑ)

You can use “我的天哪(wǒ de tiān nɑ)” when you are very surprised about something or feel that something is incredible (good or bad). You can also simply said “天哪(tiān nɑ)”.

Examples:

wǒ de tiān nɑ, zhè jiàn yīfú zěnme zhème piányi?
我的天哪,这件衣服怎么这么便宜?
Oh my god, why is this dress so cheap?

wǒ de tiān nɑ, nǐ zěnme zhème zāng?
我的天哪,你怎么这么脏?
Oh my god, why are you so dirty?

2. 我去 (wǒ qù)

In addition to “我的天哪(wǒ de tiān nɑ)”, younger generations of Chinese have developed another, slightly subdued, way to express the same emotion. Millennials have given birth to, “我去(wǒ qù)”.

The phrase literally translates to, “I go”, but that’s not at all what it means in this kind of situation. First appearing on the internet in 2010, this phrase was used by netizens when they felt surprised, or something unexpected happened, they found themselves in an unpleasant or weird situation – the words “我去” escaped their lips (err… fingertips?), conveying a slightly mocking, while at the same time speechless, tone.

When you are angry about something, or you hear some shocking or disappointing news, you can react with “我去(wǒ qù)!”.

Example:

A: tā lí jiā chūzǒu le.
A: 他离家出走了。
A: He ran away from home.

B: wǒ qù!
B: 我去!
B: Oh my god!

Or when you are skeptical about something, you can also use “我去(wǒ qù)!”

Example:

A: tā kǎo shàng le qīnghuá dàxué.
A: 他考上了清华大学。
A: He was admitted to Tsinghua University.

B: wǒqù! zhēnde jiǎde?
B: 我去,真的假的?
B: Oh my god! Really?

3.简直了 (jiǎnzhí le)

“简直(jiǎnzhí)” is an adverb, that literally means “simply”.

Example:

zhè jiǎnzhí tài kěxiào le!
这简直太可笑了!
This is simply ridiculous!

Influenced by the word’s function of exaggerating the degree, young people have started using the phrase “简直了(jiǎnzhíle)” to emphasize their strong emotions in spoken language.

“简直了(jiǎnzhíle)” is often used in conjunction with a tone of astonishment, admiration, disdain, or anger.

For example, when you are about to leave work and your boss suddenly assigns you a task, then you can use “简直了(jiǎnzhíle)”.

4.完蛋了(wándàn le)

When a situation develops to the point where it is irreversible, we will use “完蛋了(wándàn le)” to express a very bad and very desperate mood. Some readers might recognize the English acronym, “FUBAR” – it’s sort of like that, but less crass, and kind of means, “it’s finished”, or, “it’s all over,” or, “there’s no hope.” It can be used when something is very important to you, but you mess up.

Examples:

wǒ yǐwéi wǒ de shēnghuó wándàn le.
我以为我的生活完蛋了。
I thought my life was over.

A: nǐ zuótiān de miànshì zěnme yàng?
A: 你昨天的面试怎么样?
A: How was your interview yesterday?

B: wándàn le, wǒ jūrán wàngjì zhè jiàn shì le!
B: 完蛋了! 我居然忘记这件事了!
B: Oh no! I actually forgot about it!

With more and more exposure to online materials and cross-cultural references, Chinese slang often seems to evolve in lockstep with popular English terminology. However, it’s important to note that while the emotions expressed may be the same, the words are often different; or, while the words may be the same, the emotions they correlate to might not be one-to-one.

It’s a fun exercise to train yourself and your brain to react in ways that are appropriate not only to the way that you’re feeling but also to the environment you’re in – and a fun way to surprise your Chinese friends!

You May Want to Learn More:

Today’s Laborers Are Laboring at Labors of Love

Things You Must Know about “大牌(dàpái)”

How to Address Your Family Members in Chinese?

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