If you stay in China for a long time, you will find out that some Chinese people greet others by saying “have you eaten already?” (你吃了吗 nǐ chī le ma?) ，especially at meal time, this dialogue can be heard anywhere.
Jim: Hi, Lucy, nǐ chī le ma?
Hi, Lucy, 你吃了吗？
Hi, Lucy, have you eaten?
Lucy: Chīle, nǐ ne ?
Yes, and you?
Jim: wǒ yě chī le。
I have, too.
In the old days, when food was more scarce, this traditional greeting means you care for the person you are addressing. In modern China, food is plentiful, but the greeting has become commonplace, as well as other “eating terms”. We will learn more here:
|English meaning||Chinese terms||Literal translation||Example|
|have difficulties||吃力 chī lì||eat hardships||他学习很吃力。|
He has difficulty in his studies.
|be popular||吃得开 chī dé kāi||eat well||他在社会上很吃得开。|
He is popular in the community.
|enjoy privilege||吃小灶 chī xiǎo zào||eat a small stove||课后老师总给他吃小灶。|
After class, the teacher always gives him special attention.
|live off one’s past gains||吃老本 chī lǎo běn||eat the original capital||他不做生意光吃老本。|
He doesn’t do business, but lives off his savings.
|take advantage of||吃豆腐 chī dòu fǔ||eat bean curd||不好意思，我不是故意要吃你豆腐。|
Sorry, I did not mean to take advantage of you.
|too much||吃不消 chī bú xiāo||eat but not digest||全天工作她恐怕吃不消。|
A full-time job may be too much for her.
|to suffer losses||吃亏 chī kuī||eat losses||跟他作生意你是要吃亏的。|
You will stand to lose if you do business with him.
|be jealous||吃醋 chī cù||eat vinegar||当他发现她爱别人的时候，他吃醋了。|
He was jealous when he discovered that she loved someone else.
|live off others||吃干饭 chī gàn fàn||eat cooked rice||我们不需要吃干饭的。|
We don’t need those who live off others.
|cause trouble||吃苦头 chī kǔ tóu||eat bitterness||少管闲事，要不你会吃苦头的。|
Mind your own business, or you’ll cause trouble.