How to be a tough guy in Chinese

The following phrases are commonly used in casual spoken Chinese. They can help you to express your frustration, dissatisfaction, or ensure that people will not mess with you. Either that, or these phrases may earn you a free beating. Use at your own discretion. ;)

The 找 (zhǎo)pattern: looking for…

找 (zhǎo) is most commonly used for 找东西 (zhǎo), i.e. looking for something. However, 找 (zhǎo) also has many other useful applications…

找茬 (zhǎochá), verb. To purposely find fault and pick at small details. Or, to make a fuss/make trouble.

他已经做得很好了,你别找茬了 (tā yǐjīng zuò děi hěn hǎo le, nǐ bié zhǎochá le) He’s done his best already; don’t be so picky.

A synonym for 找茬 (zhǎochá) is 找事 (zhǎoshì). Also, 没事找事 (méishì zhǎo shì), adj., is to be a busybody, or to complain, or to make a big deal out of something small.

你的博客不是已经修改了好几次了吗?别没事找事,快发布吧!(nǐ de bókè bù shì yǐjīng xiūgǎi le hǎo jǐ cì le ma? bié méishì zhǎo shì, kuài fābù ba!) Didn’t you revise your blog post like a million times already? Stop fussing and publish it!

Adding the particle 啊 (a) or 呀 (ya) at the end and emphasizing 茬 (chá) or 事 (shì)  increases the note of aggression. The particle is usually pronounced with 轻声 (qīngshēng) – pronounced with a neutral tone.

Quite often, you’ll hear drivers yelling at pedestrians/bicyclists/other drivers/people when they get in their way and the drivers have to suddenly put on the brakes because they’ve been driving too fast. They’ll say, “找呀你?! (zhǎocháyanǐ), that is, you lookin’ for trouble?!

If your friends are making fun of you, you could also say, “找呀你?! (zhǎocháyanǐ)”, or alternatively, “找啊你?! (zhǎoshìanǐ)” you lookin’ for trouble? you wanna start somethin’? Make sure to emphasize the 茬 (chá) or 事 (shì). Hopefully, your friends will know that you’re joking.

The 欠 (qiàn) pattern: you deserve a...

欠 (qiàn) means owe, or lack. In English sometimes people will say someone “needs a smackdown”.  In Chinese, this can be expanded to express dissatisfaction at people and/or situations. Another reason why Chinese is such a wonderful language.

欠揍 (qiàn zòu) adj., deserves a beating
欠打 (qiàn dǎ) adj.,deserves to be hit
欠骂 (qiàn mà) adj.,deserves to be scolded
说话欠考虑 (shuōhuà qiàn kǎolǜ) adj.,speaks without thinking

这小孩儿总是不听话,真欠骂! (zhè xiǎoháir zǒngshì bùtīng huà, zhēn qiàn mà!) This kid is such a brat; he deserves a good scolding!

网络又出问题了,真欠揍! (wǎngluò yòu chū wèn tí le, zhēn qiàn zòu !) Internet’s down again; somebody’s gonna get a hurt real bad!

All of these can be used to express displeasure, but rarely is used to indicate a desire for actual violence. Anyway, it’d be irresponsible to not caution you to be careful who you say it to. Your good friends or coworkers that you can joke around with, no problem. But your boss or spouse…well, not so much.

怎么搞的?zěnme gǎo de?

This is a common saying I hear on the streets.  This is used when someone is not satisfied with one’s own or another person’s actions, sometimes showing misunderstanding about what happened. 

怎么搞的 (zěnme gǎo de) carries the tone of blaming or complaining.  In English, this phrase would be translated as “What’s going on?“  or “What’s wrong with me/you?“.

Here are some examples to show how this phrase can be used:

1)  怎么搞的!  明天就开会讨论了,你们到现在还没把计划 书写出来!
Zěnme gǎo de!  míng tiān jiù kāihuì tǎolùn le, nǐmen dào xiàn zài hái méi bǎ jìhuà shū xiě chūlái!
[What's going on?  We have already talked about having a meeting tomorrow.  You still haven't written out your proposal!]

2)你是怎么搞的?  屋子弄得这么乱!
Nǐ shì zěnme gǎo de?  Wūzi nòng de zhème luàn!
[What's going on?  The room is so messy!]

3)A:  你的机票呢?
Nǐ de jīpiào ne?
[Where's your plane ticket?]

B: 我刚才明明放在桌上的, 怎么搞的, 一转眼就不见了。
gāng cái míng míng fàng zài zhuō shàng de, zěnme gǎo de, yī zhuàn yǎn jiù bú jiàn le.
[I just placed it on the table in a very obvious place.  What's wrong with me?  I turn away and it's now gone.]


刘德联, 刘晓丽.  Exemplification of Common Sentence Patterns in Spoken Chinese 汉语口语常用句式例解.  Peking University Press, 2005.

Spoken Chinese sentence pattern-01

We have been through a very busy week again, especially when we have a group of Wheaton students visiting. Good thing is that we finally put our first weekly sentence pattern together,  hope you all enjoy and tell us  in comment how can we do it better later, here comes the first one,

AA=A一(yī )A

Meaning: to have a try/to give it a try;

Usage: AA indicates reduplicated verbs.


1. 这是我做的菜,你尝尝。(same as 尝一尝)

zhè shì wǒ zuò de cài , nǐ chánɡ chánɡ .

This is what I cooked, please try it.

2. 你有什么好想法,可以说说。(说一说

nǐ yǒu shén me hǎo xiánɡ fǎ , ké yǐ shuō shuō .

If you have any good ideas, tell us about it.

3. 如果你喜欢这件T恤,可以试试。(试一试

rú ɡuǒ nǐ xǐ huɑn zhè jiàn t xù , ké yǐ shì shì .

If you like this T-shirt, you can try it on..

4. 听听,这是谁的歌?(听一听

tīnɡ tinɡ , zhè shì shuí de ɡē?

Listen to this, guess who sings this song?

5. 想想,今天晚上你想去哪儿吃饭?(想一想

xiǎnɡ xiǎnɡ , jīn tiān wǎn shɑnɡ nǐ xiǎnɡ qù nǎ ér chī fàn ?

Think about it, where do you want to eat tonight?

* Try to use this pattern to make some new sentences, tell us what you can come up with in comment.

Here are 5 audios , hope it helps. ( thanks Lucy for recording)