5 Most Common Chinese Idioms To Learn And Use Right Away

When you are starting in the beginning stages of learning Chinese, you might think that idioms are too difficult to remember and understand. However, that doesn’t have to be the case! Idioms are part of many languages because they give conversations colour. Not only will you sound smart and impressive when you pick up and use these idioms daily, but it can provide depth to your conversations.

Chinese speakers integrate many different idioms in their everyday conversations. Knowing some of the most popular idioms will help you make friends easily and improve your conversational Chinese.

If you’re ready to get started, then here are a list of some common idioms you can learn and use right away!


This is an idiom that is easy to use as a greeting, and very straightforward in meaning! You can use it when meeting up with friends you haven’t met with for a while. As it translates almost exactly to the English version word-for-word, it is very simple to remember.

Long Time No See – hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn


‘When in Rome’ is an idiom that exists in many different languages, and it means that when you are in another country or amongst another group of people, you should follow their customs. The Chinese version literally means ‘entering a village, follow their customs’.

For foreigners who have decided to move to an Asian country to study in a Chinese course in Singapore, this idiom will come in handy. For instance, if you are eating something truly local, you can say ‘when in Rome’ to your newfound friends, implying that you are trying out everything that the gorgeous city has to offer!

When in Rome – rù xiāng suí sú


This idiom means to give up halfway. For example, if you have started taking up Chinese classes, but decided to quit after a month, someone might use this expression to say you are giving up halfway!

If you add ‘don’t’ to the front of it, you can also use this phrase to encourage and motivate someone not to give up so easily.

Give Up Halfway – bàn tú ér fèi


If you are enrolled in Mandarin lessons in Singapore, you will be able to embark on plenty of new and challenging adventures. Trying out new things might be challenging at first, but it is the first step that is always the hardest.

You can use this idiom in many different scenarios, and thus you should look to memorise it!

The First Step is the Hardest – wàn shì qǐ tóu nán


Coming from the classic Chinese story “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” this idiom has the same meaning as it does in English. While soldiers were looking for the main character, Cáo Cāo, he appeared before he could be called.

In daily conversations, when you are talking about someone and they show up right after, this idiom can come in useful.

Speak of the Devil – shuō cáocāo cáocāo jiù dào


By using idioms in your daily conversations with others, you can show your respect to the Chinese culture and its rich history.

Are you interested to know more about Chinese idioms, sayings and many others? Then you should look to enrol in a Chinese language course in Singapore! Not only will you be able to pick up new phrases and words in your daily conversations, but it can help you to improve and learn Chinese better.

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