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The Many Uses of “Hand” in Chinese

If we say someone is clever and deft, we mean he or she is quick-witted and nimble-fingered and it is called “心灵手巧” (xīn ling shǒu qiǎo) in Chinese. “手” (shǒu)(hand)is important in working or doing other things. And in Chinese, “手” (shǒu ) has many different uses besides the literal meaning “hand,”.

1、Do something through a hands-on approach, like

  • “手稿”(shǒu gǎo) original manuscript
  • ”手迹” (shǒu jì) original handwriting

2、 A certain skill, capability, trick, or gimmick, like

  • “写作手法” (xiě zuò shǒu fǎ) method of writing
  • ”惯用手法” (guàn yòng shǒu fǎ) same old trick

3、 Somebody who does something or is very good at doing something, like

  • ”能手” (néng shǒu) dab hand at something
  • ”新手” ( xīn shǒu) new hand or raw recruit

4、 Something tinny and be easy to take with oneself, like

  • “手机” (shǒu jī) hand phone
  • ”手册” (shǒu cè) manual

5、 Now, Chinese always say “分手” (fēn shǒu) when they break up with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend.

So you see, we have so many sayings about “hand,” which also indicates how important and how agile it is.

Here are some examples:

Tā de guàn yòng shǒu fǎ jiù shì táo pǎo
他 的 惯 用 手 法 就 是 逃 跑。
His usual trick is escaping.

Wǒ zhǐ shì xīn shǒu.
I`m just a newbie.

Wǒ men fēn shǒu ba
我 们 分 手 吧。
Let`s break up.

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Helen Fang

Helen is a master of Teaching Chinese as A Foreign Language. She worked in South Korea for one year to teach Chinese in Confucius Institute. She has published some thesis relating to teaching Chinese on “Chinese teaching and research”. Many years learning and teaching make her put the theories into practice. Now, she is working as senior Mandarin teacher at TouchChinese.

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