Chinese Language Blog

Chinese Opposite Words Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

When I teach English to students in China, I always encourage them to learn opposite words together. That way they double their vocabulary and come to associate the words with each other. The same works when you study Chinese, or any language for that matter – it’s good to memorize opposite words to build your vocabulary. To help you out, here are 15 sets of Chinese opposite words that will come in handy in your daily life.


香港很热,哈尔滨很冷 = Hong Kong is very hot, Harbin is very cold.

  • 新 (xīn)/旧 (jiù) = new/old

  • 高 (gāo)/矮 (ǎi) = tall/short

  • 冷 (lěng)/热 (rè) = cold/hot

  • 便宜 (pián yí)/贵 (guì) = cheap/expensive

  • 近 (jìn)/远 (yuǎn) = near/far

  • 小 (xiǎo)/大 (dà) = small/big

  • 软 (ruǎn)/硬 (yìng) = soft/hard

  • 现代 (xiàn dài)/传统 (chuán tǒng) = modern/traditional

  • 安静 (ān jìng)/吵 (chǎo) = quiet/noisy

  • 高兴 (gāo xìng)/伤心 (shāng xīn) = happy/sad

  • 安全 (ān quán)/危险 (wéi xiǎn) = safe/dangerous

  • 胖 (pàng)/瘦 (shòu) = fat/thin

  • 老 (lǎo)/年轻 (nián qīng) = old/young

  • 有趣 (yǒu qù)/无聊 (wú liáo) = interesting/boring

  • 强 (qiáng)/弱 (ruò) = strong/weak

Interestingly enough, there are quite a few Chinese words that are made from two opposite characters back to back. One of the most famous is the yin-yang (阴阳 – yīn yáng) in Chinese philosophy, which explains how opposite forces are actually interconnected. Perhaps that explains why there are so many words formed from opposite characters. Here are a few examples:

Yin and yang.

Yin and yang.

  • 多少 (duō shǎo) = how many/how much (many/few)

  • 左右 (zuǒ yòu) = about/approximately (left/right)

  • 东西 (dōng xī) = thing/stuff (east/west)

  • 粗细 (cū xì) = thickness (thick/thin)

  • 快慢 (kuài màn) = speed (fast/slow

  • 动静 (dòng jìng) = movement/activity (move/still)

  • 大小 (dà xiǎo) = size (big/small)

  • 宽窄 (kuān zhǎi) = width (wide/narrow)

  • 长短 (cháng duǎn) = length (long/short)

  • 曲直 (qū zhí) = right and wrong (crooked/straight)

For practice, try making sentences with the opposite words similar to the one I used in the picture above:

xiāng gǎng hěn rè, hā’ěr bīn hěn lěng
Hong Kong is very hot, Harbin is very cold.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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