The Many Meanings of the Word Yi Si

The Many Meanings of the Word Yi Si

As many of you will already know, words in Mandarin can often be interpreted in a variety of different ways. A perfect example is the word 意思 yì sī. This blogs explores its different forms:

Yì sī, 意思

1. In its most common form, it stands for ‘meaning’.

For example: 什么意思?shén me yì sī? What does it mean?
你的意思是什么? nǐ de yì sī shì shén me? What do you mean?

2. Express one’s regrets.

For example: 不好意思 bù hǎo yì sī. I am sorry/excuse me – used either to apologise or to ask somebody to move out of the way.

3. Suggest that someone is shy.

For example: 她不好意思 tā bù hǎo yì sī. She is shy.
别不好意思 bié bù hǎo yì sī. Don’t be shy!

4. Convey modesty and politeness.

For example: 怎么好意思 (after received a gift) zhěn me hǎo yì sī. It’s so kind of you!

5. Giving something to somebody (e.g. a gift)

For example: 给,这是小意思 gěi, zhè shì xiǎo yì sī. Here you are, something just for you,

6. A piece of cake.

For example: 喝酒小意思 hē jiǔ xiǎo yì sī. Drinking is a piece of cake!

n.b. You can put anything in front of “xiǎo yì sī” to denote that it is extremely easy for you.

7. Show a tendency.

For example: 天有想要下雨的意思 tiān yǒu xiǎng yào xià yǚ de yì sī. It seems like it’s going to rain soon.

8. Interesting.

For example: 学中文有意思。xué zhōng wén yǒu yì sī. Studying Chinese is a lot of fun.

n.b. The structure something + 有意思(yǒu yì sī) implies that something is interesting.

9. Funny

For example: 这个人真有意思 zhè gè rén yǒu yì sī. This guy is very funny.

n.b. When you put someone instead of something in front of 有意思(yǒu yì sī), it becomes a description of someone’s character.

10. Fall for someone
For example: 他对这个女孩有意思 tā duì zhè gè nǚ hái yǒu yì sī. He cares for this girl.

So… Thought you knew the meaning of the word 意思 in Chinese? That’s the beauty of this language, we have billions of meanings and a variety of different tones for one word, as well as millions of explanations of the same set of characters and several extensions of the same terms.

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