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A how to for “picking up” in Chinese

Stop sniggering at the back! When you saw the title, did you think we were learning about how to pick up a man or woman in Chinese class today? We are strictly talking about the Chinese translations of the English phrase “to pick up”! For example, “to pick up a book”, “…your parents” or “…a little Mandarin”. This is a little less easy in Mandarin, as the word will change depending on the situation.

1. 学会 xué huì

pick up

1)xué huì hànyǔ bù tài nán


     It’s not hard to pick up Chinese

学会(xué huì) means “to pick up a skill”. 学(xué) means “to learn, to study” and 会(huì) means “master a skill”. So you learn + master = “pick up”. The object in this structure could be either a verb phrase or a noun.

1)xué huì zuòfàn


     pick up cookery (skills)

2)xué huì yīngyǔ


     pick up English

2. 接 jiē

pick up

接(jiē) itself has a lot of meanings itself, but here we are talking about 接电话(jiē diànhuà) which means to pick up a phone.

1)Tā de gōngzuò shì jiē diànhuà


     Her job is to pick up phones

If you need to pick someone up, as in, from the airport, work or school perhaps (not at a bar!!) you also use 接(jiē). The structure is: 接(jiē) + someone.

1)Wǒ měitiān dōu qù xuéxiào jiē wǒ de érzi


     I pick my son up from school every day

3. 鸡汤 jī tāng


Nope, I didn’t make a mistake here. The equivalent phrase for “pick-me-up” in Chinese is “鸡汤(jī tāng)”, literally “chicken soup”. I guess chicken soup is something you drink when you are sick and it makes you feel better. So the Chinese think of expressions and kind words which pick you up in spirit as鸡汤(jī tāng) as well! Here is a “鸡汤(jī tāng)”

1)Míngtiān huì gèng hǎo


     Tomorrow will be better

4. 皮卡 píkǎ

pickup truck

I have a hunch that this word is a word is lent from English. 皮卡(píkǎ) just sounds like “pickup”, doesn’t it? In China, few people drive a “pickup truck”, especially in cities. Chinese think the only reason you would drive a皮卡(píkǎ) is because your job is a truck driver.

1)Zhōngguórén bù kāi píkǎ


     Chinese don’t drive pickup truck

5. 搭讪 dāshàn

pick up

Finally, the one you’ve been waiting for! 搭讪(dāshàn) is used when you pick up a man or a woman. It’s a verb but you can’t use any object directly in most cases.


So “I picked her up” IS NOT 我搭讪她 (Wǒ dāshàn tā). No, no, no. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


The right way to use it should be

1)Tā xǐhuan zài jiǔbā dāshàn


     He likes to pick up in the bars


2)tā xiàng tā dāshàn


     He picked her up

Source:Dig Mandarin


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