Toll Free - U.S.& Canada:  1-800-791-9386   Hong Kong:  800-930-623   Australia:  1-800-779-835
Free online Chinese learning support
  • Follow us on Facebook!
  • Watch Our YouTube Videos!
  • Follow us on Twitter!
  • Follow us on WeChat!
    Follow Us in WeChat by Scanning!
    Follow Us in "WeChat"
    by Scanning
  • Follow us on LinkedIn
  • Explore Our Instagram Videos & Photos!
United Kingdom:  0-800-086-8969   Germany:  0-800-180-0341   Singapore:  800-130-1652
France:  0-805-080-689   Spain:  900-838-906    

Yì si (意思)-Most Misunderstood Word with So Many Surprising Meanings

Apr. 21, 2022

Victor has been learning Chinese for more than five years, and he’s quite proud of his Chinese. But he failed an exam recently with only one question on the test paper: Please explain each “意思 (yì si)” in the dialogue (The answer can be found at the end of the article).

HSK 3 quiz

zhāng lěi gěi lǐng dǎo sòng hóng bāo shí,èr rén de duì huà pō yǒu yì si。
张       磊  给  领    导    送      红     包  时,二  人  的  对  话   颇   有 意 思。

lǐng dǎo :nǐ zhè shì shén me yì sī ?
领     导:  你  这  是  什 么 意 思?

zhāng lěi :méi shén me, yì sī yì sī.
张       磊: 没  什  么,意 思 意 思。

lǐng dǎo :nǐ zhè jiù bú gòu yì si le.
领    导:  你  这  就  不  够  意 思 了。

zhāng lěi :xiǎo yì si ,xiǎo yì si.
张       磊: 小  意 思,小  意 思。

lǐng dǎo :nǐ zhè gè rén zhēn yǒu yì si,nà wǒ jiù bù hǎo yì si le.
领     导: 你  这  个  人    真   有  意 思, 那  我 就 不   好 意 思 了。

And it’s said that Victor got so confused and then cried, and dared not to say he’s good at Chinese language ever again.

Haha, it’s just a joke, but not only “意思 (yì si)”, many Chinese words have more than one or even five meanings! That’s one of the reasons why Chinese is difficult to learn. Today, we’ll explore the different meanings of “意思 (yì si)”.

1. Refers to its literal translation: meaning, idea

HSK 3 quiz

Examples:

No. 1:
zhè jù huà de yì si mó léng liǎng kě.
这   句 话  的 意 思 模   棱     两   可。
This sentence is ambiguous.

No. 2:
zài zhōng wén lǐ, yí gè cí wǎng wǎng yǒu ruò gān gè bú tóng yì si.
在     中     文  里,一个 词   往      往     有   若   干   个 不   同  意 思。
In Chinese, a word usually has several different meanings.

2. Refers to a person’s opinion or wish

HSK 3 quiz

Examples:

No. 1:
qǐng bú yào wù jiě wǒ de yì si.
请     不  要   误  解 我 的 意 思。
Don’t get me wrong./Don’t misunderstand what I’ve said.

No. 2:
tā de yì si bié rén bìng wèi zhēn zhèng lǐ jiě.
她 的 意思 别 人    并    未    真     正    理 解。
What she said didn’t really get across.

3. Means affection, like or love. It’s commonly used when someone start to have interests with another.

HSK 3 quiz

Examples:

No. 1:
xiǎo míng duì xiǎo hóng yǒu yì si.
小      明    对   小     红     有 意 思。
Xiaoming is interested in Xiaohong.

No. 2:
wǒ jué dé tā duì nǐ yǒu yì si.
我   觉  得 他  对 你  有 意 思。
I think he has a crush on you.

4. Refers to a token of affection or appreciation; small gift

HSK 3 quiz

Examples:

No. 1:
zhè shì sòng gěi nǐ men de xīn hūn lǐ wù,  yī diǎn xiǎo yì si.
这   是   送    给  你  们   的  新  婚  礼 物,一 点    小  意 思。
This is just a little keepsake for your wedding.

No. 2:
wǒ zhè cì bāng le nǐ zhè me dà de máng, nǐ bú yì si yì si ma?
我  这  次   帮  了 你  这  么  大  的   忙, 你 不 意思 意思 吗?
I did you a big favor this time, aren’t you going to get me something?/aren’t you going to give me a little present in return?

5. Refers to suggestion, hint or trace

HSK 3 quiz

Examples:

No. 1:
zhè gè tiān qì kàn qǐ lái yǒu diǎn yào xià xuě de yì si.
这   个  天  气  看  起 来  有   点    要  下  雪  的 意 思。
It looks as if it’s going to snow.

No. 2:
kàn nǐ de biǎo qíng, gēn běn méi yǒu xiǎng lí hūn de yì si.
看  你 的   表    情,  根   本    没   有    想   离  婚  的 意 思。
I can tell from your expression that you don’t want a divorce.

6. It’s used to describe someone/something that is fun or interesting

HSK 3 quiz

Examples:

No. 1:
zhè ge kǎ tōng piān tǐng yǒu yì si de.
这  个  卡   通     片   挺    有  意 思 的。
The cartoon is very interesting.

No. 2:
wǒ de zhōng wén lǎo shī shì gè tǐng yǒu yì si de rén,hěn yōu mò.
我  的    中      文   老  师  是  个  挺    有 意 思 的 人,  很    幽   默。
My Chinese teacher is a funny person, he’s very humorous.

Words like “意思 (yì si)” might be rather hard to learn but they are very useful in daily conversations of Chinese, so it’s necessary to learn them well. What other polysemous words do you want to learn? You’re welcome to comment in the section below!

See Answer Analysis to the Test Paper

You May Want to Learn More :

“How to Use 以致 (yǐ zhì) and 致使 (zhì shǐ) Correctly?”

“Do you know the differences between 不 (bù) and 没 (méi)?”

”How to Use “de” – “的”, “地”and “得” in Chinese Correctly?”

HSK 1 quiz

Got questions? Take a free 1-to-1 lesson with one of our professional teachers by signing up below:
Name: 
E-mail: 
Country/Region: 
-select-

search no result

Tel: 
By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number
will be kept STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.
Submit

Write a comment

Your Name: 
Your Email:  Your email address will not be published.
Comments: 
Verification Code:  Verification Code Unclear? Try another one
By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Email This Article
Recipients' email addresses:
(separate recipients with comma)
Your name:
Your e-mail address (optional):
Your message (optional):
Verification Code:
By clicking Send, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.


Get 11 FREE Mandarin E-books
Sign up for a free trial now!
Get more information about our Chinese lessons through live chat
Get a FREE live 1-to-1 lesson and FREE e-books. Complete the form below:
Name:
E-mail:
Country/Region:
-select-

search no result

Tel:
By clicking Submit, you agree to our
Terms of Service
and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number
will be kept STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.