The Different Meanings Behind “What do you mean?” in Chinese (pt. 2)

The Different Meanings Behind “What do you mean?” in Chinese (pt. 2)
Hope that you’ve already had a cup of coffee, because for Part 2 of The Different Meanings Behind “What do you mean?” in Chinese (click here for Part 1) we’re jumping right in!
Note: Make sure you’re familiar with this word before you continue!
意思 (yìsi): n. meaning


duì  bù  qǐ , wǒ  hái  bú  tài  míng  bái  nǐ  de  yì   sī.
对   不  起, 我   还   不   太    明    白  你   的  意   思。
Sorry, I still don’t quite understand what you mean.
guò  le  hǎo  chánɡ  shí  jiān , tā  cái  míng  bái  tā  de  yì  sī.
过   了   好       长       时    间, 她 才    明    白   他  的  意  思。
It took a long time before she understood what he meant.

5. 你指的是什么意思?(nǐ zhǐ de shì shénme yìsi?)
HSK 3 quiz

This is asking the other person to clarify the point they’re trying to make. Think of, “What are you trying to say?” or, “What are you referring to?” with all the possible interpretations in English; it could show aggression, but also confusion, depending on how it’s used. Either way, it’s really asking what the other person is “getting at.”

Example 1:

A:   qǐng  wèn , nǐ  zhǐ  de  shì  shén  me  yì  si ?
A:    请    问, 你    指    的   是    什   么  意  思?
A: Excuse me, what do you mean?
B: wǒ  de  yì  si  shì  wǒ  dǎ  suàn   jì  xù  xué   xí   zhōng   wén.
B:  我   的  意  思  是   我   打   算    继  续   学   习    中      文。
B: I mean I intend to continue learning Chinese.

Example 2:

A: gào   sù   wǒ ,  nǐ  zuì  hòu  nà   jù   huà  shì   shén  me  yì   si?
A:  告    诉    我, 你   最   后    那  句   话    是     什     么   意  思?
A: Tell me, what does your last sentence mean?
B: wǒ   de  yì  si   shì,   wǒ   bìng  bú  rèn  tóng nǐ zhī   qián  shuō   de  nà  gè   guān   diǎn .
B:  我    的   意  思  是,我    并    不  认    同    你   之      前     说    的   那  个    观      点。
B: I mean I don’t agree with that point of view you said earlier.

6. 你几个意思?(nǐ jǐ ge yìsi?)
HSK 3 quiz

Confused? This literally means something like, “How many meanings do you have?” but this strange-looking expression can quickly turn ugly or uncomfortable.
However, just like other serious expressions, “你几个意思?(nǐ jǐ ge yìsi?)” can be used to lighten the situation when used jokingly with friends! A crude way to translate this might be, “What the [insert curse-word-of-your-choice here] do you mean?!”

Example 1:

A:   nà  nǐ  kuài  huí   qù   ba , běn  lái   yě   méi   dǎ   suàn   jiào   nǐ .
A:那  你    快    回    去    吧,  本    来   也    没    打      算     叫     你。
A: Then you go back quickly, I didn’t intend to call you.
B:     nǐ   jǐ   gè   yì    si?
B:你  几    个   意  思?
B: What do you mean?


A: nǐ   de   xié   zi   yòu   zāng   le  hā   hā   hā .
A:你   的    鞋   子   又     脏    了  哈   哈    哈。
A: Your shoes are dirty again hahaha.
B: nǐ    jǐ    gè    yì   sī   ā ?
B:你  几   个    意  思  啊?
B: What do you mean?

7. 你的意思是…?(nǐ de yìsi shì…?)
HSK 3 quiz

Like in English, ending your question by trailing off without finishing might cause the other person to wait for you to say something else before realizing you’re asking them to finish the sentence for you. An equivalent in English is, “So what you mean is….?”, but you shouldn’t make a habit out of asking a question like this in Chinese. Why?
Well, if you remember our friends “吗(ma)”, “有没有(yǒuméiyǒu)”, and “不(bù)” you’ll very quickly remember that questions are formed by grammar structures and question markers, which means asking a question with a “….?” will be confusing for most listeners.


A:wǒ   jué   de   wǒ   men    kě   yǐ   cháng   shì   yí    xià .
A: 我      觉    得    我    们     可   以       尝     试    一    下。
A: I think we can try it.
B:nǐ   de   yì   si    shì ?
B:你    的   意   思   是?
B: What do you mean?
A: wǒ   men   yì   qǐ   qù    pān   yán   ba .
A:   我    们    一   起    去     攀     岩     吧。
A: Let’s go rock climbing together.
Got all that? Quiz time! (Leave answers and comments below)

HSK 3 quiz

Which of the expressions you learned today is NOT appropriate to say to your boss?
A. 你的意思是…?
B. 你几个意思?
C. 你指的是什么意思?

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