It all begins in the morning…
One thing leads to another, but you do have choices along the way! Here is a humorous look at what might happen if you forget to set your alarm. But first, some vocabulary to tune your mind and ear to Chinese:
設定 ㄕㄜˋ ㄉㄧㄥˋ to set, to set up
鬧鐘 ㄋㄠˋ ㄓㄨㄥ alarm clock
發生 ㄈㄚ ㄕㄥ to happen, to occur
情形 ㄑㄧㄥˊ ㄒㄧㄥˊ circumstances, situation
起床 ㄑㄧˇ ㄔㄨㄤˊ to get out of bed, to get up
急急忙忙地 ㄐㄧˊ ㄐㄧˊ ㄇㄤˊ ㄇㄤˊ ㄉㄜ˙ hurriedly
刷牙 ㄕㄨㄚ ㄧㄚˊ to brush teeth
洗臉 ㄒㄧˇ ㄌㄧㄢˇ to wash (your) face
上廁所 ㄕㄤˋ ㄘㄜˋ ㄙㄨㄛˇ to get on the toilet
留下 ㄌㄧㄡˊ ㄒㄧㄚˋ to remain, to leave behind
牙膏 ㄧㄚˊ ㄍㄠ toothpaste
櫥窗 ㄔㄨˊ ㄔㄨㄤ display window
玻璃 ㄅㄛ ㄌㄧˊ glass
反射 ㄈㄢˇ ㄕㄜˋ to reflect, reflection
顧著 ㄍㄨˋ ㄓㄜ˙ attending to
擦掉 ㄘㄚ ㄉㄧㄠˋ to wipe
錯過 ㄘㄨㄛˋ ㄍㄨㄛˋ to miss
公車 ㄍㄨㄥ ㄔㄜ bus
乘上 ㄔㄥˊ ㄕㄤˋ to ascend, to get on
上班 ㄕㄤˋ ㄅㄢ to go to work, to start work
遲到 ㄔˊ ㄉㄠˋ to arrive late
辦公室 ㄅㄢˋ ㄍㄨㄥ ㄕˋ office, business premises
轉頭 ㄓㄨㄢˇ ㄊㄡˊ to change direction, to turn, to repent
位置 ㄨㄟˋ ㄓˋ seat, place, position
咖啡壺 ㄎㄚ ㄈㄟ ㄏㄨˊ coffee pot
糕餅 ㄍㄠ ㄅㄧㄥˇ pastry
盤子 ㄆㄢˊ ㄗ˙ plate, tray
吃光了 ㄔ ㄍㄨㄤ ㄌㄜ˙ to eat completely
接著 ㄐㄧㄝ ㄓㄜ˙ continuing, next, to go on to
認真 ㄖㄣˋ ㄓㄣ conscientious, earnest
努力地 ㄋㄨˇ ㄌㄧˋ ㄉㄜ˙ with great effort, strivingly
保持 ㄅㄠˇ ㄔˊ to keep, to maintain
陽光 ㄧㄤˊ ㄍㄨㄤ sunlight, sunny
樂觀 ㄌㄜˋ ㄍㄨㄢ optimistic, hopeful
態度 ㄊㄞˋ ㄉㄨˋ attitude, manner, approach
相處 ㄒㄧㄤ ㄔㄨˇ to be in contact with, to associate, to get along
融洽 ㄖㄨㄥˊ ㄑㄧㄚˋ harmonious, on good terms with one another
啤酒 ㄆㄧˊ ㄐㄧㄡˇ beer
電動遊戲 ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄉㄨㄥˋ ㄧㄡˊ ㄒㄧˋ video game
直到 ㄓˊ ㄉㄠˋ until
無所謂 ㄨˊ ㄙㄨㄛˇ ㄨㄟˋ not to matter, to be indifferent
Now, is this anywhere close to how it has happened to you?
(ㄖㄨˊ ㄍㄨㄛˇ)(ㄗㄨㄛˊ ㄨㄢˇ)(ㄕㄨㄟˋ)(ㄑㄧㄢˊ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄨㄤˋ)(ㄌㄜ˙)(ㄕㄜˋ ㄉㄧㄥˋ)(ㄋㄠˋ ㄔㄨㄥ)
(rú guǒ)(zuó wǎn)(shuì)(qián)(nǐ)(wàng)(le.)(shè dìng)(nào zhōng)
(if)(you)(last night)(to sleep)(before, front, ahead)(to forget)(emphasize completion)(to set, to set up)(alarm clock)
……(ㄋㄚˋ)(ㄊㄧㄢ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄎㄜˇ ㄋㄥˊ)(ㄈㄚ ㄕㄥ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄑㄧㄥˊ ㄒㄧㄥˊ)
……(nà)(tiān)(nǐ)(kě néng)(fā shēng)(de.)(qíng xíng)
……(that)(day)(you)(might, possibly)(to happen)(adjective marker)(circumstances, situation)
If you the night before forget to set your alarm clock, that day you might have certain things happen.
(you)(too)(late)(to get out of bed)(emphasize completion)
You are too late getting out of bed.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄉㄚˋ ㄍㄞˋ)(ㄇㄟˊ)(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄕˊㄐㄧㄢ)(ㄔ)(ㄗㄠˋ ㄘㄢ)
(nǐ)(dà gài)(méi)(yǒu)(shí jiān)(chī)(zǎo cān)
(you)(probably)(not)(to have)(time)(to eat)(early meal)
You probably won’t have time to eat breakfast.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄎㄜˇ ㄋㄥˊ)(ㄒㄩ ㄧㄠˋ)(ㄐㄧˊ ㄐㄧˊ ㄇㄤˊ ㄇㄤˊ)(ㄉㄜ˙)
(nǐ)(kě néng)(xū yào)(jí jí máng máng)(de.)
(you)(maybe)(need)(hurriedly)(adds -ly to previous word, connects it to following verbs)
……(ㄕㄨㄚ ㄧㄚˊ), (ㄒㄧˇ ㄌㄧㄢˇ), (ㄕㄤˋ ㄘㄜˋ ㄙㄨㄛˇ)
……(shūa yá), (xǐ liǎn), (shàng cè suǒ)
……(brush teeth), (wash face), (get on the toilet)
You may need to hurriedly brush your teeth, wash your face, and use the toilet.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄎㄜˇ ㄋㄥˊ)(ㄌㄧㄡˊ ㄒㄧㄚˋ)(ㄧˋ ㄒㄧㄝ)(ㄧㄚˊ ㄍㄠ)(ㄗㄞˋ)(ㄌㄧㄢˇ)(ㄕㄤˋ)
(nǐ)(yǒu)(kě néng)(liú xià)(yì xiē)(yá gāo)(zài)(liǎn)(shàng)
(you)(to have)(maybe, might)(to leave behind, to remain)(at)(face)(on)
You might have left some toothpaste on your face.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄗㄡˇ)(ㄗㄞˋ)(ㄌㄨˋ)(ㄕㄤˋ)(ㄎㄢˋ)(ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄇㄧㄢˋ)(ㄔㄨˊ ㄔㄨㄤ)(ㄅㄛ ㄌㄧˊ)
(nǐ)(zǒu)(zài)(lù)(shàng)(kàn)(diàn)(miàn)(chú chuāng)(bō lí)
(you)(to walk)(at)(road)(on)(to look)(store)(face, side)(display window)(glass)
……(ㄈㄢˇ ㄕㄜˋ)(ㄗˋ ㄐㄧˇ)(ㄌㄧㄢˇ)(ㄕㄤˋ)(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄉㄨㄥ ㄒㄧ)
……(fǎn shè)(zì jǐ)(liǎn)(shàng)(yǒu)(dōng xī)
As you walk along the road you see from your reflection in the store front window that you have something on your face,
(ㄙㄨㄛˇ ㄡㄧˇ)(ㄍㄨˋ)(ㄓㄜ˙)(ㄘㄚ ㄉㄧㄠˋ)(ㄌㄧㄢˇ)(ㄕㄤˋ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄉㄨㄥ ㄒㄧ),
(suǒ yǐ)(gù)(zhe.)(cā diào)(liǎn)(shàng)(de)(dōng xī)
(so)(to attend to)(indicates action in progress)(to wipe)(face)(on)(adjective marker)(thing, stuff)
……(ㄘㄨㄛˋ ㄍㄨㄛˋ)(ㄌㄜ˙)(ㄍㄨㄥ ㄔㄜ)
……(cuò guò)(le.)(gōng chē)
……(to miss)(emphasize completion)(bus)
so concentrating on wiping off the stuff that is on your face, you miss the bus.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄔㄥˊ ㄕㄤˋ)(ㄌㄜ˙)(ㄧˋ)(ㄅㄢ)(ㄍㄨㄥ ㄔㄜ),
(nǐ)(chéng shàng)(le.)(xià)(yì)(bān)(gōng chē)
(you)(to ascend, to get on)(emphasize)(next)(one)(MW for bus)(bus)
……(ㄎㄜˇ ㄕˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄕㄤˋ ㄅㄢ)(ㄔˊ ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄌㄜ˙)
……(kě shì)(nǐ)(shàng bān)(chí dào)(le.)
……(but)(you)(start work)(tardy, late)(emphasis)
You catch the next bus, but you get to work late.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄗㄡˇ ㄐㄧㄣˋ)(ㄅㄢˋ ㄍㄨㄥ ㄕˋ),
(nǐ)(zǒu jìn)(bàn gōng shì) ,
……(ㄊㄨㄥˊ ㄕˋ)(ㄇㄣ˙)(ㄉㄡ)(ㄓㄨㄢˇ ㄊㄡˊ)(ㄎㄢˋ)(ㄓㄜ˙)(ㄋㄧˇ),
……(tóng shì)(men.)(dōu)(zhuǎn tóu)(kàn)(zhe.)(nǐ)
……(co-worker, colleague)(makes previous noun plural)(all, both)(to turn)(to watch)(indicates action in progress)(you),
As you enter your office, all your co-workers turn to watch you.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄐㄩㄝˊ ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄧㄡˇ)(ㄒㄧㄝ)(ㄅㄨˋ ㄏㄠˇ ㄧˋ ㄙ˙)
(nǐ)(jué de.)(yǒu)(xiē)(bù hǎo yì si.)
(you)(to feel)(to have)(some)(to feel embarrassed, to be sorry)
You feel a bit embarrassed.
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄈㄤˋ ㄒㄧㄚˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄆㄧˊ ㄅㄠ)(ㄗㄞˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄨㄟˋ ㄓˋ)(ㄕㄤˋ),
(nǐ)(fàng xià)(nǐ de.)(pí bāo)(zài)(nǐ de.)(wèi zhì)(shàng),
(you)(lay down, put down, set aside)(your)(purse, leather bag)(at)(your)(seat, place)(on)
You put your purse down at your cubicle,
(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄗㄡˇ ㄐㄧㄣˋ)(ㄔㄨˊ ㄈㄤˊ)(ㄒㄧㄤˇ ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄅㄟ)(ㄎㄚ ㄈㄟ),
(nǐ)(zǒu jìn)(chú fáng)(xiǎng dào)(bēi)(kā fēi)
(you)(to enter)(kitchen)(to think of, to anticipate)(cup)(coffee)
……(ㄈㄚ ㄒㄧㄢˋ)(ㄎㄚ ㄈㄟ)(ㄏㄨˊ)(ㄕˋ)(ㄎㄨㄥ)(ㄉㄜ˙)
……(fā xiàn)(kā fēi)(hú)(shì)(kōng)(de.)
……(to discover, to find)(coffee)(pot)(to be/is)(empty, hollow)(adjective marker)
You go into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and discover the coffee pot is empty.
(ㄗㄞˋ)(ㄎㄢˋ ㄎㄢˋ)[(ㄈㄤˋ)(ㄍㄠ ㄅㄧㄥˇ)(ㄉㄜ˙)](ㄆㄢˊ ㄗ˙)(ㄧㄝˇ)(ㄕˋ)(ㄎㄨㄥ)(ㄉㄜ˙)
(zài)(kàn kàn)(fàng)(gāo bǐng)(de.)(pán zi.)(yě)(shì)(kōng)(de.)
(then, again, once more)(to survey, to take a look at)[(to put)(pastry)(adjective marker)](plate, tray)(also)(is/to be)(empty)(adjective marker)
……(ㄊㄧㄢˊ ㄊㄧㄢˊ ㄑㄩㄢ)(ㄉㄡ)(ㄅㄟˋ)(ㄔ)(ㄍㄨㄤ)(ㄌㄜ˙)
……(tián tián quān)(dōu)(bèi)(chī)(guāng)(le.)
……(donut)(all)(indicates passive voice)(to eat)(to use up)(emphasize completion)
Then, taking a look at the plate the pastries are put on, you see it is also empty, and all the donuts have been eaten.
(ㄐㄧㄝ ㄓ˙)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄏㄞˊ ㄕˋ)(ㄉㄟˇ)(ㄖㄣˋ ㄓㄣ)(ㄋㄨˇ ㄌㄧˋ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄍㄨㄥ ㄗㄨㄛˋ)
(jiē zhe.)(nǐ)(hái shì)(děi)(rèn zhēn)(nǔ lì)(de.)(gōng zuò)
(to continue, to go on to)(you)(still, nevertheless)(must)(conscientious)(to try hard)(-ly/particle connecting adverbs to following verb)(to work)
Nevertheless, you must conscientiously work hard.
(ㄅㄠˇ ㄔˊ)(ㄧㄤˊ ㄍㄨㄤ), (ㄌㄜˇ ㄍㄨㄢ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄊㄞˋ ㄉㄨˋ)
(bǎo chí)(yáng guāng), (lè guān)(de.)(tài dù)
(to keep)(sunny), (optimistic)(adjective marker)(attitude)
……(is/to be)(necessary)(adjective marker)
It is necessary to keep a sunny, optimistic attitude.
(ㄙㄨㄛˇ ㄧˇ)(ㄊㄨㄥˊ ㄕˋ)(ㄇㄣ˙)(ㄉㄡ)(ㄍㄣ)(ㄋㄧˇ)
(suǒ yǐ)(tóng shì)(men.)(dōu)(gēn)(nǐ)
(as a result, therefore, so)(colleague, co-worker)(makes previous noun plural)(all, both)(with)(you)
……(ㄒㄧㄤ ㄔㄨˇ)(ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄏㄣˇ)(ㄖㄨㄥˊ ㄑㄧㄚˋ)
……(xiāng chǔ)(de.)(hěn)(róng qià)
……(to be in contact with, to associate, to get along)(used before verb or adjective)(very)(harmonious)
As a result, your co-workers all get along with you very well.
(ㄒㄧㄚˋ ㄅㄢ)(ㄌㄜ˙), (ㄧˊ)(ㄨㄟˋ)(ㄊㄨㄥˊ ㄕˋ)(ㄑㄧㄥˇ)(ㄋㄧˇ)
(xià bān)(le.), (yí)(wèi)(tóng shì)(qǐng)(nǐ)
(after work)(emphasize completion), (one)(MW for person)(co-worker)(to invite, to ask)(you)
……(ㄔ)(ㄨㄢˇ ㄘㄢ), (ㄏㄜ)(ㄆㄧˊ ㄐㄧㄡˇ), (ㄌㄧㄠˊ ㄊㄧㄢ)
……(chī)(wǎn cān), (hē)(pí jiǔ), (liáo tiān)
……(to eat)(evening meal), (to drink)(beer), (to chat)
After work, a co-worker invites you to have dinner and a beer, and to chat.
(you)(also)(to have)(possibility, might)(to return)(home)
……(ㄨㄢˊ)(ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄉㄨㄥˋ ㄧㄡˊ ㄒㄧˋ), (ㄓˊ ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄅㄢˋ ㄧㄝˋ)
……(wán)(diàn dòng yóu xì), (zhí dào)(bàn yè)
……(to play)(video games), (until)(the middle of the night, midnight)
You also might return home and play video games until the middle of the night.
(ㄋㄚˋ)(ㄉㄠˋ)(ㄨˊ ㄙㄨㄛˇ ㄨㄟˋ),
(nà)(dào)(wú suǒ weì),
(that)(after all, and yet, bottom line, to the fact, actually)(doesn’t matter)
……(ㄓˇ ㄧㄠˋ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄐㄧˇ ㄉㄜ˙)(ㄕㄜˋ ㄉㄨㄥˋ)(ㄋㄠˋ ㄓㄨㄥ),
……(so long as, if only)(you)(remember)(to set)(alarm clock)
…………(ㄙㄨㄛˇ ㄧˇ)(ㄋㄧˇ)(ㄅㄨˊ)(ㄏㄨㄟˋ)(ㄕㄤˋ ㄅㄢ)(ㄔˊ ㄉㄠˋ)
…………(suǒ yǐ)(nǐ)(bú)(huì)(shàng bān)(chí dào)
…………(so)(you)(not)(will)(get to work)(late, tardy)
That doesn’t matter, so long as you remember to set your alarm clock so you won’t be late to work.
❶ The two characters in this word literally mean “to establish what you have decided”. 設 is build or establish and 定 is to decide, as in the word 決定 ㄐㄩㄝˊ ㄉㄧㄥˋ (jué dìng) which is two characters which both mean to decide. So, if you have set your alarm, you have firmly established your decision to wake up at a certain time.
❷ The 鬧 here means to quarrel or hotly dispute, which is much how people feel about their alarm clocks. It is the same as used in 吵鬧 ㄔㄠˇ ㄋㄠˋ (chǎo nào) to speak of raucous and screaming noise.
❸ 情形 is used here instead of 事情 (shì qíng) because 事情 is more about things you have planned, whereas 情形 is more about circumstances happening to you
❹ 上廁所 gives more of a sense of urgency to this. The more polite and less intense way to say it is
(to go)(to wash)(hand)(room)
to go to the lavatory, toilet, or washroom
❺ As in English, there is often more than one word which conveys a very similar meaning. The word 搭上 ㄉㄚ ㄕㄤˋ (dā shàng) could also be used here and is the equivalent of “to take” the next bus. Or 坐上 ㄗㄨㄛˋ ㄕㄤˋ (zuò shàng) meaning “to sit/to take a seat on”.
❻ You will notice that the measure word (MW) 班 here is the same character that is used for job/work 上班 later in the sentence. That is because the literal meaning of the character has to do with groups or teams. A bus carries a group of people and a workplace is usually a place where a there is a team of people.
❼ This particular word for being late is used when there is a regular scheduled appointment involved, such as going to work or school. This as opposed to it being late in the day or late getting out of bed, as in the first sentence.
❽ This character 辦 sounds similar to 班, but their tones are different (`and ¯). So even though they are both used regularly when speaking about work situations, it is for different reasons. I find it helpful to remember that 辦 is also part of the word 辦法 ㄅㄢˋ ㄈㄚˇ (bàn fǎ), which is common for talking about methods or ways of doing things; whereas 班 is used because work is frequently a group effort.
❾ A co-worker, or colleague, is someone who is working together on the same business as you are. That is the literal meaning of these two characters. 同 means same and together with and 事 means business or affair. You may recall the word 事情 ㄕˋ ㄑㄧㄥˊ (shì qíng) which also uses that character and means matters, affairs, thing, or business.
➓ Even though this is not the word used for cubicle, it is the common word used for that concept of partitioned off work space.
⓫ This character is used in a fun way in my book A Million Rocks (in Chinese). The story is on the beach and includes barnacles. The word for barnacle in Chinese has to do with the fact that they look like upside down rattan pots, so 藤壺 ㄊㄥˊ ㄏㄨˊ (téng hú)
⓬ This is another example of where the adjective marker is put at the end of several words that all describe what the plate is for.
⓭ This character 光 is also used to mean light or bright, and is also used when talking about bare feet: 光腳丫 ㄍㄨㄤ ㄐㄧㄠˇ ㄧㄚ (guāng jiǎo yā). The idea seems to be that emptiness and bareness mean completely exposed to the light or nothing blocking the light so it can be clearly seen.
⓮ This is one of the best compliments in Chinese culture.
⓯ This is not exactly an idiom, but it is a phrase that uses ancient characters that are not regularly used in general.