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What On Earth Do You Mean?

Nov. 23, 2011

Key Learning Point (Preview): 

意思 (yìsi): n. meaning


Frank is my friend from America. One day, he came to me and told me that he heard a conversation between two Chinese people which confused him. The conversation went as follows:

    Nǐ zhège rén zhēn yǒu yìsi. 
A: 你 这个   人      真  有  意思。


    Bù hǎo yìsi, gāngcái ràng nǐ jiànxiào le
B: 不 好  意思,  刚才      让 你    见笑  了。


He said "意思 (yìsi)" was used twice, and he didn't know what  it meant at all. In fact, the first "意思 (yìsi)" means interesting, and the second is used to mean sorry. The word "意思 (yìsi)" is commonly used in Chinese, and it literally refers to “meaning.” However, it has different meanings in different situations.

Key Learning Point: 

意思 (yìsi): n. meaning 


(1) "意思 (yìsi) is often used to show that things or people are interesting. 


Māo hé Lǎoshǔ zhè bù dònghuàpiàn tǐng yǒu yìsi de.  
《猫  和 老鼠》    这 部     动画片         挺  有 意思  的。


The animation Tom and Jerry is interesting. 

Tā nánpéngyou tǐng yǒu yìsi de, zǒng ài jiǎng xiàohua. 
她      男朋友        挺  有 意思 的,总   爱   讲    笑话。


Her boyfriend is funny. He always loves to tell jokes.

(2) It often appears in the expression "不好意思 (bù hǎo yìsi)," meaning "sorry" or "excuse me." When you do something wrong but it’s not serious, you can use "不好意思 (bù hǎo yìsi)" to show that you’re sorry. If you feel sorry for bothering or troubling someone, you can also use it.


           Bù hǎo yìsi, wǒ chídào le. 
Frank: 不  好 意思,我  迟到   了。


           Sorry, I am late.

          Méi guānxi. 
Anne: 没     关系。


          It doesn't matter.

Bù hǎo yìsi, nǐ néng zài shuō yíbiàn ma?  
不 好  意思,你  能   再   说     一遍  吗?


Sorry, can you say it again?

(3) "意思 (yìsi)" can refer to a token of affection or appreciation, etc.


          Zhège lǐwù sònggěi nǐ, yìdiǎnr xiǎoyìsi, bié kèqi.                                                        
 Mike: 这个    礼物    送给  你,一点儿 小意思,别 客气。


          This small gift is for you. You don't need to say anything.

          Xièxie le.
Emily: 谢谢了。



(4) "意思 (yìsi)" can also refer to suggestions, hints or traces.


Tiān yīn le, yóudiǎnr yào xiàyǔ de yìsi. 
天     阴 了,有点儿    要  下雨  的意思。


It is cloudy. It is going to snow.

(5) "意思 (yìsi)" can also be used to describe someone who is good, genial and kind. 


         Nǐ fàngxīn ba, zhè jiàn shì jiù bāo zài wǒ shēn shàng le.
  Jim: 你  放心   吧, 这  件   事  就  包  在  我     身       上  了。


         Believe me. I can totally handle this. 
         Nǐ zhēn gòu yìsi.
Tom:  你  真     够意思。


         You are a good fella. 

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That’s a mold-beraekr. Great thinking!

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