Translation Challenge: Household Chores

Today’s translation challenge is all about household chores: how many of these English and Chinese expressions can you translate naturally?

Ten Common Household Chores (十个常见的家务活)

1. 洗衣服

2. dry your clothes

3. 熨烫衣服

4. fold your clothes

5. put your clothes away

6. take out the garbage

7. 洗碗

8. dry the dishes

9. 打扫卧室

10. 整理客厅



1. 洗衣服: wash your clothes.

2. dry your clothes: How you translate this depends on what you mean by “dry” – do you mean air your clothes (晾衣服), leave them to dry under the sun (晒衣服) or dry them by the fire or in a dryer (烘干衣服 )?

3. 熨烫衣服: iron your clothes (or have your clothes “pressed” if you want to be fancy).

4. fold your clothes: Apparently, northerners prefer 叠衣服 and southerners prefer 折衣服 – both expressions seem to originate from the word 折叠.

5. put your clothes away: Perhaps no exact Chinese equivalence – 把你的衣服放在衣柜里 (“put your clothes in the wardrobe”) will probably suffice, since “put away” generally implies that.

6. take out the garbage: Again, no exact verb in Chinese for “take out” – you may translate it literally as 把垃圾箱推出去 (“dump the garbage bin out”).

7. 洗碗: wash the dishes (in Chinese, this is also expressible as 洗碗筷, 洗碗盘, 洗碗碟, etc)

8. dry the dishes: This would depend on how you dry them – to wipe them dry you could say 擦干碗碟, to leave them to dry/drain on a rack, 控干 may suffice.

9. 打扫卧室: clean your bedroom

10. 整理客厅: tidy up the lounge room (or living room)

How many did you manage to translate?

If you have any chore-related phrases you’d like translated please let us know in the comments!


14 Comments to "Translation Challenge: Household Chores"

  1. 22/05/2011 - 3:11 pm | Permalink

    These are some really useful phrases, I’m definitely going to be using 把你的衣服放在衣柜里 with my wife haha.

  2. hanmeng's Gravatar hanmeng
    23/05/2011 - 1:50 am | Permalink

    For ironing clothes, we use 烫衣服.
    For putting clothes away, we use 把衣服收起來.
    For taking out the garbage, we use 倒垃圾.

  3. Stephany's Gravatar Stephany
    31/05/2011 - 10:10 pm | Permalink

    My instincts (as a heritage learner who hears things around the house and learns them by osmosis, although often incorrectly) for putting clothes away would be 把你的衣服收(拾?)好.

    I think we also say 把垃圾拿出去, but that’s because we have a kitchen garbage can and take the bag out to the bin outside, which is then wheeled onto the curb every Tuesday.

  4. Deena's Gravatar Deena
    19/06/2011 - 2:44 am | Permalink


    1. 洗衣服 do the laundry. Literally, 洗衣服 means wash the clothes. But i like “do the laundry” better. I do have a question, does “doing the laundry” mean both washing and drying or it could also mean washing only??

    2. dry your clothes 干衣服。 In this way, it could be 晒干 or 烘干。。。

    3. 熨烫衣服 As a native of Beijing, we usually say 熨衣服 or 烫衣服,not usually 熨烫衣服…we are too lazy to say the whole thing…;p

    4. fold your clothes 叠衣服, i am from beijing, so i definitely go with 叠衣服

    5. put your clothes away…there is an exact chinese translation for it, which is 收衣服,short for 收起衣服。

    6. take out the garbage 扔垃圾 or 倒垃圾

    7. 洗碗 do the dishes

    8. dry the dishes… that is a tricky one. I would say 把碗弄干。。。but this is very informal. 弄is like the word of “do” in English, you can use it in almost anywhere you want. So, 弄干 means dry, doesn’t indicate how to dry it.

    9. 打扫卧室 i would say “clean the bedroom” as well..

    10. 整理客厅…can i say “organize the living room”?

    Let me know how you think of my answers…谢谢!

  5. marioforever's Gravatar marioforever
    19/06/2011 - 8:38 pm | Permalink

    How should we say 买菜?

  6. Nick's Gravatar Nick
    12/07/2011 - 10:02 am | Permalink

    In southern areas and Taiwan it’s also quite common to hear 丟 instead of 扔 🙂

  7. Brian's Gravatar Brian
    01/08/2011 - 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Carl. Could you help me out for the following sentences and tell me how to interpret them into English?

    1. 我浴室的水一直滴不停。

    2. 烤箱里的烤盘不能用,而且烤箱的灯也不亮。

    My version:
    1. My bathroom room keeps dripping.
    2. The trays in my oven cannot be used and the light in there does not shine either.

  8. 01/08/2011 - 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Here’s my version:

    1. My shower won’t stop dripping.
    2. I can’t use the trays in my oven and the oven light doesn’t work.

    But don’t you think 烤箱里的烤盘不能用 is a bit vague? In what way are they 不能用?

  9. Brian's Gravatar Brian
    02/08/2011 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

    It is vague. But this is exactly what the second dialogue in the naati sample test kit (the one Micheal used the other day) says.

    Shower means bathroom or faucets in the bathroom? Is it better to say faucets drip?

    Why you say “won’t stop dripping” instead of “keeps dripping”? Future tense is commonly used here in daily conversation?

    • 02/08/2011 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I suppose 浴室的水 could be faucets or the shower itself, it’s not clear.

      “Won’t stop” is more common in conversation, especially when you’re complaining about something. It gives a sense of frustration.

      By the way, English technically doesn’t have a future tense, though it does have adverbs which can express future aspects. 😛

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