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The Good and the Bad about “事儿(shìr)”

May. 16, 2014

Everyone’s life is made up of a variety of happenings and things. In Chinese, we call this matter or thing “事情(shìqing)” and its shorter form is “事(shì).” But in oral Chinese, we usually say “事儿(shìr)” instead of “事(shì).” Be sure to pay special attention to the pronunciation of “事儿(shìr)”. It should be pronounced as one syllable “shìr” and not two separate syllables like “shì ér.” Let’s take a closer look at the meaning and use of “事儿(shìr).”

First of all, “事儿(shìr)” can be used as a noun and it is usually modified by “有(yǒu)” or “没有(méiyǒu).” In oral Chinese, We often say “有事儿(yǒu shìr) have something to do,” “没事儿(méi shìr) have nothing to do.” Here “没事儿(méi shìr)” is short for “没有事儿(méiyǒu shìr).”


1. Tom: Wǒ jīntiān xiàwǔ yǒu shìr, bùnéng hé nǐ yìqǐ dǎ lánqiú.
1. Tom: 我   今天   下午   有   事儿, 不能     和 你一起打 篮球。


1. Tom: I have something to do this afternoon. I can’t play basketball with you.

Bill: Nǐ yǒu shénme shìr?
Bill: 你 有   什么      事儿?


Bill: What do you have to do?

Tom: Wǒ yào xiě zuò yè.
Tom: 我   要   写  作   业。


Tom: I have to do my homework.

2. Jim: Wǒmen shénme shíhou qù kàn diànyǐng?
2. Jim: 我们       什么       时候    去  看   电影?


2. Jim: When will we go to see the movie?

Zhāng Měi: Xīngqī liù kěyǐ ma? Wǒ xīngqī liù méi shìr.
张        美:星期    六 可以 吗?我   星期   六 没  事儿。


Zhang Mei: Is Saturday okay? I have nothing to do on Saturday.

Other than being used to mean “have nothing to do,” “没事儿(méi shìr)” is also often used in daily conversations as a reply to apologies. When used this way, it has the same meaning as “没关系(méi guānxi) never mind.” It can also be used to reply to thanks. In this situation, it means “不客气(bú kèqi) you’re welcome.” Since “没事儿(méi shìr)” has different meanings, it is important for us to pay attention to the context when we use it.


1. Lǐ Lěi: Duìbùqǐ, wǒ chídào le.
1. 李 磊:对不起
,  我  迟到    了。


1. Li Lei: Sorry, I was late.

Zhāng Xiǎo: Méi shìr.
张        晓: 没   事儿。


Zhang Xiao: Never mind.

2. Betty: Xièxie nǐ de bāngzhù!
2. Betty: 谢谢   你 的 帮助!


2. Betty: Thanks for your help!

Lisa: Méi shìr!
Lisa: 没   事儿!


Lisa: You are welcome!

Besides, “事儿(shìr)” is usually modified by the classifier “件(jiàn),” such as “一件事儿(yí jiàn shìr) one thing,” “这件事儿(zhè jiàn shìr) this thing,” “那件事儿(nà jiàn shìr) that thing,” etc.


1. Betty:Linda, Zhào Xīn míngtiān jiéhūn, nǐ zhīdào ma?
1. Betty:Linda,赵    心   明天       结婚,你  知道   吗?


1. Betty:Linda, did you know that Zhao Xin is getting married tomorrow?

Linda: Wǒ zhīdào zhè jiàn shìr.
Linda: 我   知道    这    件  事儿。


Linda: I did know about that.

2. Nǐ kěyǐ bāng wǒ zuò yí jiàn shìr ma?
2. 你 可以 帮     我 做   一 件   事儿 吗?


2. Can you help me deal with something?

Many adjectives can be used to modify “事儿(shìr).” Our life is full of all kinds of things, such as “好事儿(hǎo shìr) good things,” “坏事儿(huài shìr) bad things,” “高兴事儿(gāoxìng shìr) happy things,” and “伤心事儿(shāngxīn shìr) sad things,” ect.


1. Wǒ xiǎng gàosù nǐ yíjiàn hǎoshìr.
1. 我   想      告诉   你 一件   好事儿。


I want to tell you something good.

2. Nà gè rén jīngcháng zuò huàishìr!
2. 那  个  人  经常         做    坏事儿!


2. That man often does bad things!

Furthermore, “事儿(shìr)” can also be used as an adjective. In the dialect of the northern China, if there is a woman who is very picky, extremely nosey and always curious about other people’s personal lives, we would call her “事儿妈(shìr mā) Nosey Nellie.”

Here, “事儿(shìr)” is an adjective meaning “nosey” or “troublesome.” “妈()” does not actually refer to “mother” here, but to any person. You may wonder why we do not call such person “事儿爸(shìr bà).” We use the word “妈()” because people generally associate a picky or nosey person with a woman. It is commonly seen to be a feminine characteristic. Now, “事儿(shìr)” is usually separately used in spoken Chinese as an adjective to describe people such as “很事儿(hěn shìr) very nosey” or “真事儿(zhēn shìr) so nosey.”


1. Zhāng Wěi de nǚ péngyou shì gè shìr mā! Wǒ bù xǐhuan tā!
1. 张         伟  的  女 朋友         是 个 事儿 妈!我   不  喜欢   她!


1. Zhang Wei’s girlfriend is very nosey. I don’t like her!

2. Jim, nǐ zěnme zhème shìr? Bié guǎn wǒ!
2. Jim, 你 怎么    这么   事儿?别   管    我!


2. Jim, why are you so nosey? Leave me alone!


1. Li Ming: Great! I got first place!
    Mike: Congratulations!

    For Li Ming, this is a ___?

A 好事儿(hǎo shìr)

B 坏事儿(huài shìr)

C 没事儿(méi shìr)

2. Zhang Lin’s colleagues often say that she is a “事儿妈(shìr mā)”. What do her colleagues mean?

A. Zhang Lin is a mother who is busy taking care of her baby.

B. Zhang Lin is like a mother to her colleagues.

C. Zhang Lin likes to get involved in other people’s business.

See Answers

General Chinese (Beginner Level)

General Chinese (Intermediate Level)


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