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Chinese “吃” not necessarily “eating”

Chinese characters, learning Chinese

Most Chinese words have multiple meanings other than the basic one. For example, the verb "吃 (chī)" has the basic meaning "eat", which is widely known. Usually it is used before words for food, such as "吃饭 (chī fàn, have a meal)", "吃糖 (chī tang, have candy)" or "吃肉 (chī ròu, eat meat)". Besides the basic meaning, "吃 (chī)" has derived meanings and metaphoric meanings as well.

汉语里的词除了基本义以外,大部分是多义的。例如,动词"吃",大家都知道它的基本义是"eat"。它的后面常跟着食品之类的,如吃饭、吃糖、吃肉等。"吃"除了本义,还有引申义和比喻义。

 

Here are two derived meanings of "吃 (chī)":

"吃"的引申义有以下两种:

 

"吃 (chī)" can be used to mean "go through" or "suffer". Examples:

"吃"有"受"的意思。例如:

 

吃苦 (chī kǔ) – to go through hardships

吃苦:经受艰苦的意思

吃惊 (chī jīng) – to be surprised

吃惊:受惊的意思

吃亏 (chī kuī) – to suffer loss

吃亏:受损失的意思

 

"吃 (chī)" can also mean "need or use great effort". Examples:

"吃"还有"耗费"的意思。例如:

 

吃力 (chī lì) – arduous

吃力:费力的意思

吃劲 (chī jìn) – laboursome

吃劲:费劲的意思

 

Here are the metaphoric meanings of "吃(chī)". Examples:

"吃"还有比喻义。例如:

 

吃香 (chī xiāng) – popular

吃香:比喻很受欢迎

吃醋 (chī cù) – jealous in love

吃醋:比喻在男女关系上的嫉妒心理

吃闭门羹 (chī bì mén gēng) – be denied entrance at the door

吃闭门羹:比喻拒绝客人进门

 

In spoken Chinese, there are many other interesting phrases containing "吃 (chī)", like "吃父母 (chī fù mǔ)", "吃食堂 (chī shí tang)", "吃大碗 (chī dà wǎn)" and "靠山吃山,靠水吃水 (kào shān chī shān, kào shuǐ chī shuǐ)". Of course, these phrases do not mean "to eat parents/canteen/big bowl/mountain". Here, the structure of "吃X" is caused by the displacement of words and in fact, it leaves out some sentence components. Examples:

在汉语口语里,还有其他一些包含"吃"的趣味短语,如"吃父母"、"吃食堂","吃大碗"、"靠山吃山,靠水吃水"等。这类词语的意思,当然不是把"父母"、"食堂"、"大碗"、"山"等吃掉。这里的"吃X"是由于词语的位移造成的,实际上是省略了一些句子成分。例如:

 

"吃父母 (chī fù mǔ)" means children live off their parents. Here, "父母(fù mǔ)" is used instead of "父母的收入 (fù mǔ de shōu rù)", where the word "收入 (shōu rù)" is left out.

"吃父母"的意思是指子女依赖父母生活,这里的"父母"代替了"父母的收入",说话时省略了"收入"。

 

"吃食堂 (chī shí táng)" means "to eat in the canteen". The adverbial "食堂里 (shí táng lǐ, in the canteen)" is displaced where the object of "吃 (chī, to eat)" is supposed to be placed.

"吃食堂"的意思是指"在食堂里吃饭",这里把"吃"的状语"食堂里"移到"吃"的宾语位置上去了。

 

"吃大碗 (chī dà wǎn)" means "to eat with a big bowl" , which is similar to "吃食堂(chī shí táng)".

"吃大碗"的意思是指"用大碗吃饭",这和"吃食堂"用法类似。

 

"靠山吃山,靠水吃水 (kào shān chī shān, kào shuǐ chī shuǐ, make a living according to one's given circumstances)" is a Chinese proverb. Here the "吃山 (chī shān)" means "to live on the natural products from the mountain" and "吃水 (chī shuǐ)" means "to live on natural products from the sea or river". "山 (shān)" refers to the "mountain products" and "水 (shuǐ)" is "aquatic product".

"靠山吃山,靠水吃水"是—句中文俗语。这里的"吃山"是指依靠山上的物产生活,"吃水"则是指依靠水产物生活。"山"和"水"各代表"山货"和"水产"。

 

A complement added after "吃 (chī)" can form the structure "吃得X" and "吃不X". Examples:

动词"吃"的后面加上补语,可以构成"吃得X"和"吃不X"的格式,例如:

 

吃得开 (chī de kāi) – workable, popular

吃得开:指行得通,受欢迎

吃不开 (chī bu kāi) – not workable, unpopular

吃不开:指行不通,不受欢迎

 

吃得消 (chī de xiāo)/吃得住 (chī de zhù) – be able to stand or bear

吃得消/吃得住:指能支持,受得了

吃不消 (chī bu xiāo)/吃不住 (chī bu zhù) – be unable to stand or bear

吃不消/吃不住:指不能支持,受不了

 

吃得上 (chī de shàng) – can afford to eat

吃得上:指能够吃到

吃不上 (chī bu shàng) – can't afford to eat

吃不上:指吃不到

 

吃得惯 (chī de guàn) – be used to eating certain food

吃得惯:习惯于吃某种饮食

吃不惯 (chī bú guàn) – be not used to eating certain food

吃不惯:指不习惯吃某种饮食

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2016-06-21

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