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"
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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?
一见钟情 is similar to 一见倾心 which means love at first sight.
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.
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)
Carl, great blog. Here’s a post I wrote on Chengyu which makes specific references to this article & 藕断丝连:
Oh boy, I hope I could pronounce it…
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.
一见如故 and 一见钟情 are similar phrases, but not the same obviously. In the original post I think I made that clear.
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.
I take your point, but I find it amusing that you think it impossible for two people to be friends before they get married!
They can be friends before they get married, but for most Chinese, we don’t care whether the lovers are or were friends. They may be friends, but for other people, lovers are only lovers.
Do I make the point clear? (Or make some gramma mistakes?)
Yeah… but I’m still not convinced. Just the other week I was translating some documentation for a Chinese couple who were applying for marriage in Australia. In their response they used the word 一见如故 to describe how it felt when they first met each other – and they did indeed end up getting married! So I don’t see how 我们俩一见如故，三个月以后就结婚了。can be considered “incorrect”. It sounds like you have a very narrow interpretation of the phrase.
As a native Chinese, I’d like to point out that mostly 一见如故 is used to indicate a kind of friendship and is similar to 相见恨晚
When two strangers meet and find them like each other, have similar thoughts and hobbies and are incredably matched, they may make good friends immediately. In some can mean a kind of love.
You are correct. They met. They talk heart to heart for hours as if…….
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.
Who would have thought a comma could have caused such a controversy? 😛
I’ve edited it now with your suggestion in mind.
You missed the second “我们”. It’s an individual sentence. 🙂
In sum, 一见如故 itself has not so much to do with love. It works better in a whole story. :p
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. ?????
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?
I have dictionaries. I already know that “一厢情愿” means “wishful thinking”. What I don’t know is WHY.
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.