10 Chinese Love Idioms

I’ve been looking through some old notes I had written a few years ago and was inspired to come up with a love/relationships theme for my next blog entry. Here’s a list I’ve come up with some (native-speaker-checked) example sentences to help you express more eloquently your past, present and future experiences with the lovers in your life. If I’ve left out any of your favourites, please leave a comment.

1. 一见如故 yījiànrúgù

To hit it off right from the start; to feel like old friends upon first meeting. Similar to 一见钟情 yījiànzhōngqíng, “love at first sight”.
Wǒmen liǎ yījiànrúgù, sān gè yuè yǐhòu jiù jiéhūn le.
We hit it off the moment we met and got married three months later.

2. 一厢情愿 yīxiāngqíngyuàn

Use this when someone you know likes someone but that person doesn’t like them back. For example, a man is trying to do whatever he can to please a woman but the woman just does not like him. However this also has a slightly negative connotation and implies that the person is only taking into account his or her own feelings and not those of the other party. (A common occurrence when courting someone a little out of one’s league!)
Wǒ de biǎogē xiǎng zhuī wǒ de yīgè tóngxué, kǒngpà tā shì yīxiāngqíngyuàn ba!
My cousin wants to go after one of my classmates but unfortunately his love is only one-way.

3. 重色轻友 zhòngsèqīngyǒu

This phrase implies that you put your boyfriend or girlfriend ahead of your friends. In English, the US slang “[to put] bros before hos” comes to mind. (Edit: Which has the opposite meaning. Thanks for the correction.)
Wèishénme nǐ fàng le wǒ gēzi? Wǒmen bùshì hǎo péngyǒu ma? Nándào nǐ shì yīgè zhòngsèqīngyǒu de rén ma?
Why did you stand me up? Aren’t we good friends? Could it be that you’re the kind of person who won’t put bros before hoes?

4. 一往情深 yīwǎngqíngshēn

To love deeply; to be deeply attached to; to be head over heels.
Jíshǐ tāmen yǐjīng fēnshǒu le, Wángchén duì Cáobó háishì yīwǎngqíngshēn.
Although they had broken up, Wangchen and Caobo were still deeply in love.

5. 海枯石烂 hǎikūshílàn

“Even if the seas should run dry and the rocks crumble.” By extension, “no matter what happens and for how long.” This very poetic and romantic idiom is used to express your undying love for someone.
Tā zhùshì zhe tā de yǎnjīng, fāshì shuō tā huì àidào tā hǎikūshílàn.
He gazed into her eyes and swore to love her until his last dying breath.

6. 两情相悦 liǎngqíngxiāngyuè

To be attracted and attached to one another.
Tāmen kànqǐlái yǐjīng liǎngqíngxiāngyuè le, tūrán lái le gè dìsānzhě.
They seemed so attached to one another, then along came someone else.

7. 比翼双飞 bǐyìshuāngfēi

“To fly as a couple, wing to wing.” This can be used either literally – the idea of flying in the clouds with your lover, such as in a dream – or figuratively to mean to enjoy a kind of activity together, such as going on holiday.
Tāmen zhuàn gòu le qián zhīhòu biàn bǐyìshuāngfēi le.
After making enough money, they went out to have some fun.

8. 脚踏两只船 jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán

“To have one’s feet in two boats.” This idiom can refer to a man who already has a girlfriend but is seeing someone else at the same time. When used generically it can also just refer to any kind of situation in which someone is undecided.
Jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán hěn yǒu wéixiǎnxìng.
It’s dangerous to have one’s feet in two boats.

9. 藕断丝连 ǒuduànsīlián

“The lotus root is severed, but linked by threads.” This chengyu metaphorises the idea of a relationship breaking up, but still being connected in some kind of way.
Suīrán tāmen yǐjīng líhūn hěnjiǔ le, dàn ǒuěr yě huì zài wǎngshàng liánxì, zhēn yǒudiǎn “ǒuduànsīlián” de gǎnjué.
Although they divorced a long time ago, they still contact each other online from time to time and so have not cut off relations completely.

10. 一刀两断 yīdāoliǎngduàn

To make a clean break; to break up; to a sever a relationship completely.
Wǒ shízài shòu bùliǎo tā de suǒzuòsuǒwéi, suǒyǐ jiù hé tā yīdāoliǎngduàn le.
I couldn’t take her behaviour any more, so I cut her out of my life.

21 Comments to "10 Chinese Love Idioms"

  1. Marc's Gravatar Marc
    06/11/2010 - 11:49 pm | Permalink


    This sentence sounds a little odd to me. Almost like ” He vowed to love her till her seas run dry and rocks crumble. Perhaps “…爱她爱到海枯石烂” reads more naturally?

  2. Quek Sai Kee's Gravatar Quek Sai Kee
    11/12/2010 - 1:14 am | Permalink

    一见钟情 is similar to 一见倾心 which means love at first sight.

  3. Ray's Gravatar Ray
    21/01/2011 - 5:42 am | Permalink

    Here’s another one i like a lot: 花有意,水無情
    “The flower has intention, but the water has no feeling.” You use it to describe a situation where a girl loves a boy but the boy doesn’t care.
    The flower is a girl, of course, and the water is the boy she loves. The image is a blooming peach tree above a rushing stream. A blossom falls in love with the water below, and drops from the branch, offering herself to her beloved. But the water doesn’t even notice; it just flows on as before, taking the hapless little flower along with it.

    • Anni's Gravatar Anni
      23/03/2012 - 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Actually, it’s more commonly use as 落花有意,流水无情
      Chinese kinda have obsession about using four characters idioms somehow (altough there are some idioms have only 3 characters like 言必信,行必过)

  4. 27/03/2011 - 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Carl, great blog. Here’s a post I wrote on Chengyu which makes specific references to this article & 藕断丝连:

  5. kate's Gravatar kate
    09/09/2011 - 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Oh boy, I hope I could pronounce it…

  6. Yu's Gravatar Yu
    11/02/2012 - 12:02 am | Permalink

    As a Chinese, I should say that 一见如故 is not similar to 一见钟情. Your explanation “to feel like old friends upon first meeting” is right, but in most time it still describes friendship, and almost never use between couples.
    I’m sorry that my English is not so well. This blog is so good and interesting. I hope it will be better and better.

  7. Tim's Gravatar Tim
    15/02/2012 - 9:34 am | Permalink

    Hi Carl,
    I would like to join your discussion in 一见如故 and 一见钟情.
    It should be a incorrect sentence below.
    The following is correct.
    I agree with Yu. The sentence , 一见如故, is not appropriate to describe a feel in love.
    You can check the website to find the idiom come form.

  8. Seraph's Gravatar Seraph
    27/03/2012 - 7:23 pm | Permalink

    If you use a comma in between, “我们俩一见如故,三个月以后就结婚了。”, in Chinese we think those two parts are connected to each other. But in Chinese, when we see the word 一见如故, we don’t think they love each other. That’s why it feels a bit awkward.

    So, if you use a period, “我们俩一见如故。三个月以后我们就结婚了。” This is totally no problem.

  9. Clay's Gravatar Clay
    07/02/2014 - 3:14 am | Permalink

    I love your Blog.
    I am a beginner and find a lot of useful information.
    I started learning Chinese because I fell in love with a Chinese lady. Do you have a selection of terms to express my love for her?
    I like 5. 海枯石烂 hǎikūshílàn but it is in third person. What would be the correct way to tell her this? 我会爱到你海枯石烂。Wǒ huì ài dào nǐ hǎikūshílàn. ?????

  10. Chelsea's Gravatar Chelsea
    24/11/2015 - 6:41 am | Permalink


    Great blog, I especially enjoyed your 45 sentences with Chinese characteristics! However, 一见如故 has more of a friendship vibe than a romantic vibe – three separate people said this, maybe you should change it?

  11. Tell me Why's Gravatar Tell me Why
    07/10/2016 - 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I have dictionaries. I already know that “一厢情愿” means “wishful thinking”. What I don’t know is WHY.

  12. JJ's Gravatar JJ
    09/09/2019 - 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I think the confusion around 一见如故 stems from the Chinese notion of propriety “含蓄”. Romantic love is usually a private matter between two people. Adults would barely admit it to each other, let alone say it out loud to a third person. Out of propriety they would only admit to being good friends, hence 一见如故 not 一见钟情. Maybe at most 两情相悦 when they announce their engagement to family & friends.

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