“Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that happened!”
“Are you serious? Oh man…”
What do you say in Chinese for all those situations when things are extreme?
In this post we’re going to explore seven advanced Chinese grammar formations that describe all things over-the-top, extreme and colossal.
7 Advanced Chinese Grammar Structures for Unbelievable Situations
1. Adjective + 得不得了 (de bù dé liǎo)
不得了 means extremely or exceedingly. Preceded by an adjective, 不得了 intensifies the situation.
yīn wèi tā lǎo bǎn gěi tā jiā xīn shuǐ, suǒ yǐ tā gāo xìng de bù dé liǎo!
(Because his boss gave him a raise, he’s happy like mad!)
tā nǚ péng yǒu dā yīng jià gěi tā, tā xīng fèn de bù dé liǎo!
(His girlfriend agreed to marry him; he’s super excited!)
Now when you want to describe something as so very…whatever, instead of using boring old 很(hěn), you can use adjective + 得不得了.
不得了啦！(bù dé liǎo la) is an exclamation of panic, similar to “Oh no!” For example, when your computer crashes and you haven’t saved your work, you’d probably say “哎呀 不得了啦!” (āi yā bù dé liǎo la!)
The best way to learn these adjectives and know which one should be used in which situation is to see them used often in context. For that I recommend FluentU!
2. Adjective + 得很 (de hěn)
Here’s another useful way to add emphasis to whatever situation you’re describing: adjective + 得很.
得很 means “very much so.” When it follows a description, you know that the situation is above average intensity!
tā bà bù ràng tā qù měi guó dú yì shù, tā shāng xīn de hěn.
(Her dad won’t let her go to the USA to study art, so she’s extremely upset.)
xiǎo Zhōu de wǎng zhàn bèi hēi le, tā shēng qì de hěn.
(Zhou’s website has been hacked and he’s terribly angry.)
Adding adjective + 得很 is an easy way to let people know that you’re not joking—it’s really that bad!
我的老婆小气得很 (wǒ de lǎo po xiǎo qì de hěn) My wife is very easily offended.
她的男朋友有钱得很 (tā de nán péng yǒu yǒu qián de hěn) His boyfriend is ultra rich.
What people or situations could you describe with 得很?
3. Adjective + 什么? (shénmē)
Here’s something to say when you think your friend is being ridiculous. Like: Are you serious—why are you thinking this way? Or, why on earth would you do this?
Here’s an example: Let’s say your friend is five years older than you and single, and you lament your own singleness in front of her. Of course she’d be indignant! She’d think:
wǒ dōu hái méi yǒu nán péng yǒu, nǐ jí shénmē jí?
(Even I don’t have a boyfriend yet, so why the heck are you in such a hurry?)
Here’s another example: If someone’s whining about a pay cut while other people in the same office have been laid off, you might say to that person:
rén jiā dōu bèi xià gǎng le, nǐ hái bào yuàn shénmē?
(Other people have been laid off, so why on earth are you complaining?)
In sum, adjective + 什么? means “What for?” It’s a rhetorical question that emphasizes your point.
It’s useful for every situation in which you just don’t understand why someone’s reacting the way he or she is.
So the next time you want to tell someone to chill out, just say, “你急什么? 放松一点吧！” (nǐ jí shén mē? fàng sōng yī diǎn ba!) Why are you stressing? Let up a bit!
4. Adjective + 一 点 (yī diǎn)
Yikes, it’s too much! Adjective + 一 点 is for describing things that have gone a little overboard.
Let’s say the day after your friend gets dumped, he posts a mean comment on Facebook about his ex. You text him to say that’s a little harsh:
nǐ zhè yàng shì bú shì guò fèn le yī diǎn?
(Don’t you think what you’ve done is too harsh?)
Or if you want to admit that your sister can be a bit mean (but you still love her, of course), you might say:
suī rán tā de xìng gé xiōng le yī diǎn, dàn shì tā shì yī gè hǎo jiě jiě.
(Even though her personality is a bit hot-tempered, she’s still a great older sister.)
So adjective + 一 点 means that something is a little too much. Use this phrase when you’d really prefer less, not more.
Adjective + 一 点 is particularly useful in situations where you want to be polite and not offend the listener. For example, when you want to tell someone that the soup she cooked is just “a bit” too salty: 咸 (xián)了一点; or if your friend’s new haircut is outrageously short, but you choose to comment that it’s only “a little” short: 短 (duǎn)了一点.
5. 甚至… (shèn zhì)
This phrase adds emphasis to your story. It can be roughly translated as “even (to the extent that…)”
甚至… is a good way to tell a story so exaggerated, it’s almost hard to believe it’s true.
Here are two examples:
tā kàn guò de yīng yǔ shū jí shèn zhì bǐ lǎo shī hái duō!
(He has read more English books than even the teacher.)
tā jiā lǐ de rén dōu shì tiān cái, shèn zhì lián tā jiā lǐ de xiǎo māo yě huì chàng gē!
(Everyone in her family is a genius; even the family’s cat knows how to sing!)
As you practice all these grammatical structures, I’m sure your Chinese will greatly improve, 甚至可以当老师 (shèn zhì kě yǐ dāng lǎo shī), so that you could even become a teacher!
6. 简直… (jiǎn zhí)
Here’s another way to emphasize a point, this time loosely translated as “totally,” “absolutely” or “practically.”
Here are two examples:
dāng bǐ sài jié guǒ bèi xuān bù de shí hòu, tā jiǎn zhí bù néng xiāng xìn zì jǐ de ěr duo. tā jū rán dé le dì yī míng!
(When the competition results were announced, she practically couldn’t believe her ears. She had won first place!)
nǐ zěnme huì wàng jì nǐ de hù zhào nē？jiǎn zhí shì gè bèn dàn!
(How could you forget your passport? What a total idiot!)
Now you know what to say when you feel something is totally genius—简直是天才(tiān cái), absolutely ridiculous—简直荒谬 (huāng miù) or completely awesome—简直一流(yī liú).
7. 太夸张了！(tài kuā zhān le)
Finally, we come to this ever-popular phrase: 太夸张了！
This expression can be used for any situation that is way too crazy. The literal translation is “It’s too exaggerated.”
Anytime your friend tells you an over-the-top tale, you can simply respond: 哇，太夸张了！(wā tài kuā zhāng le).
You have a desktop, a laptop, a tablet and an iPad mini? 太夸张了！
You get free coffee and free cigarettes at work? 太夸张了.
Now knowing the above seven grammar formations, you’re well-equipped to handle big and hairy situations with an appropriate Chinese comment. Take the plunge.
Quip that something is out-of-hand (Adjective + 一 点). Observe that something has reached its utmost quality (简直). Exclaim that something is unbelievable (太夸张了). Have fun commenting on all sorts of wild and crazy situations!
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