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Freezing “to death?” – Adjective/Verb+死+了

It has been very cold in Beijing recently, and out on the streets, you might hear some Chinese people saying: “冷死了(lěng sǐ le, I’m freezing).” “死 (sǐ)” literally means “to die,” or “death,” and is generally a taboo word with negative connotations, like “病死 (bìng sǐ, death from illness).

But, just like in English, you often hear Chinese speakers use this word in an exaggerated way to indicate an extreme degree of something. Here is the structure:

For example, when people say: “累死了(lèi sǐ le, tired to dead),” this doesn’t mean that the speaker is actually close to death, but is merely using “死 (sǐ)” to say that he/she is extremely tired/ exhausted. Similarly, if you are really hungry, you can say我饿死了 (Wǒ è sǐ le, I am starving to death.)

See another example:

这么多事情要做,忙死了!(zhème duō shìqing yào zuò,máng sǐ le!) So many things to do, I’m extremely busy!

This structure is widely used in colloquial Chinese, as you can see in the following common examples:

  • 热死了 (rè sǐ le, extremely hot)
  • 渴死了(kě sǐ le, “thirsty to death”)
  • 困死了(kùn sǐ le, extremely sleepy)
  • 贵死了(guì sǐ le, extremely expensive)
  • 吓死了 (xià sǐ le, scared to death)
  • 无聊死了(wúliáo sǐ le, bored to death)

Also similar to English, this structure can be used to intensify positive situations as well, such as in the phrases “笑死了(xiào sǐ le,laughing to death) / 高兴死了(gāoxìng sǐ le, happy to death) / 喜欢死了(xǐ huān sǐ le,love it) / 激动死了(jī dòng sǐ le,thrilled to death)…

Besides the 死了 structure, there are also several other ways to indicate an extent or degree in Chinese language. Some of these include:

  • 太…了(tài…le), as in: 太美了。(tàiměile)So beautiful.
  • 可….了(kě…le), as in: 那儿人可多了。(nàr rén kě duō le) There are so many people.
  • …极了 (…jí le.), as in: 好极了. ( hǎo jíle) Terrific.

These structures are very good to know, as they are easy to use and frequently appear in daily conversation. Let’s try some!

Choose the correct answer to fill in the blanks.

  • 那件大衣___了,我买不起。
    (nà jiàn dà yī ___le ,wǒ mǎi bú qǐ.)
    That coat is very expensive – I can’t afford it.

    A. 喜欢死 (xǐ huān sǐ)    B. 贵死 (guì sǐ)    C. 很贵 (hěn guì)
  • 我一天没有喝水,快 ___了。
    (wǒ yì tiān méi yǒu hē shuǐ,kuài ___le.)
    I didn’t drink all day, I am____.

    A. 渴死 (kě sǐ)          B. 渴极 (kě jí)           C. 太渴 (tài kě)
  • 现在是凌晨两点,我___了,但是我不能睡,我还得工作。(xiàn zài shì líng chén liǎng diǎn,wǒ ___le,dàn shì wǒ bù néng shuì,wǒ hái děi gōng zuò.)
    It’s 2am now, I am____, but I can’t sleep. I have to work.

    A. 晚死 (wǎn sǐ) B. 忙死 (máng sǐ)           C. 困死 (kùn sǐ)

Write down your answers in the comments below!

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Rita Zhang

Rita is a professional Mandarin teacher, has been teaching more than 8 years. She enjoys digging more about Chinese grammar and culture work and helping more learners. Now she is working at the one-on-one online Chinese school TouchChinese.

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