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.

  • Duncan Leung

    Haha; nice tips! But I’m not sure if I’ll dare to say any of these phrases… yet =p