chinese-idiom-strong-start-weak-finish

Chinese idiom for “strong start, weak finish”

Are you off to a strong start for 2012?

Then don’t forget to keep pushing for a strong finish.

Because otherwise you’d just end up with 虎头蛇尾 (hǔ tóu shé wěi).

虎头蛇尾 (hǔ tóu shé wěi) literally means a “tiger head” and “snake tail,” and means that you start off strong, but finish weak. 

A breakdown of the characters in 虎头蛇尾(hǔ tóu shé wěi):

虎(hǔ): tiger

头(tóu): head

蛇(shé): snake

尾(wěi): tail

Observing 虎头蛇尾(hǔ tóu shé wěi) in the wild reveals several main usages.

Usage 1) 虎头蛇尾 + 的 + Noun.

Example 1 A)

之前在中国市场虎头蛇尾的几次突围,让现代倍感受挫 “

“zhīqián zài zhōngguó shìchǎng hǔtóushéwěi de jǐcì tūwéi, ràng xiàndài bèigǎn shòucuò “

“The several previous strong breakthroughs of the Chinese market, makes (us) feel several times more frustrated.

Example 1 B)

虎头蛇尾的金融改革…”

“…hǔtóushéwěi de jīnróng gǎigé…”

“…financial reform that has a strong start and weak finish…”

Example 1 C)

和小德、纳达尔虎头蛇尾的表现相反,费德勒在赛季尾声找到手感 “

“hé xiǎodé, nàdáěr hǔtóushéwěi de biǎoxiàn xiāngfǎn, fèidélè zài sàijì wěishēng zhǎodào shǒugǎn”

“Contrary to the strong-start-but-poor-finish performance of Nadal and and Djokovic, Federer found his touch at the end of the season”

Example 1 D)

…当初看似硕果累累的峰会,仍不能逃脱虎头蛇尾的命运 “

“…dāngchū kānsì shuòguǒlěilěi de fēnghuì, réng bùnéng táotuō hǔtóushéwěi de mìngyùn”

“…what at first appears to be a fruitful summit, still can’t escape the fate of having a strong start but no finish

Usage 2) Noun + (是) + 虎头蛇尾

Example 2 A)

受惰性影响,不少人做事总是虎头蛇尾,甚至半途而废 “

“shòu duòxìng yǐngxiǎng, bùshǎo rén zuòshì zǒngshì hǔtóushéwěi, shènzhì bàntúérfèi “

“Due to the influence of inertia, the way many people do things is to start strong but finish weak, or even stop in the middle”

Example 2 B)

影片的形式大于内容,故事明显偏弱,结局虎头蛇尾令人感觉遗憾 “

“yǐngpiàn de xíngshì dàyú nèiróng, gùshì míngxiǎn piān ruò, jiéjú hǔtóushéwěi lìngrén gǎnjué yíhàn”

“The form of the movie is bigger than the content – the plot is clearly weak. The strong start but weak ending makes you feel like it’s a shame.”

Usage 3) Verb + 得 + 虎头蛇尾.

Example 3 A)

这个赛季的确打得有些虎头蛇尾 “

“zhè gè sàijì díquè dǎ de yǒuxiē hǔtóushéwěi

“This season (I) indeed played with a strong start but weak finish.

Example 3 B)

一项为民办实事工程,办得如此虎头蛇尾,实在令人失望  “

“yī xiàng wèimín bàn shíshì gōngchéng, bàn de rúcǐ hǔtóushéwěi, shízài lìngrén shīwàng”

“A project done for the people, with a strong start and a weak finish like this – is truly disappointing.”

Questions? Comments? Other Chinese idioms you’d like us to cover? Let us know!

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