Characters Indicating People: 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人

Abstract

The Chinese language has a number of characters which, when added to end of various nouns, verbs or adjectives, can form a noun indicating a person. The following article discusses the differences between six of these characters: 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人.

师生员家者人.jpg
Contents

Introduction
Common Measure Words for People: 个, 位, 名
1) The 师 Character
2) The 生 Character
3) The 员 Character
4) The 家 Character
5) The 者 Character
6) The 人 Character
Summary
References and Further Reading


Introduction

The Chinese language has a number of characters which, when added to end of various nouns, verbs or adjectives, can form a noun indicating a person. For example, the character 人 can be placed after the noun 美国 (‘America’) to make the noun 美国人 (‘an American’) while the character 家 can be suffixed to the noun 画 (‘a painting’) to make the word 画家 (‘a painter’).

Some of these common characters indicating people are 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人. This article will discuss the differences between these characters in detail and list some of the most commonly encountered derivations (i.e. words using these characters as suffixes to form new words) with reference to their HSK level.

Some English words may be translated using more than one of these characters; for example, 作家 and 作者 both mean ‘writer’. However, considered without reference to their derivations, 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人 each have their own meanings. Understanding the differences between these characters may help a learner of Chinese better remember their derivations, as well as better prepare the learner for when unknown words are encountered in authentic texts.


Common Measure Words for People: 个, 位, 名

In spoken Chinese, 个 is the most common measure word for people. The measure word 位 is more polite and therefore often encountered in more formal situations.

名 is a relatively impartial measure word for nouns indicating people, mostly encountered in written Chinese. The measure word 名 usually indicates a specific, not an approximate, number of people in a given situation.

In most cases, the measure words 个, 位 and 名 may be used with any person-related noun using 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人.

Noun Phrase Examples using 个, 位 and 名 Meaning
一个美国人
两个服务员
三位老师
四位作家
五名共产党员
六名志愿者
an American
two waiters
three teachers
four writers
five Communist Party members
six volunteers

1) The 师 Character

师.jpgThe character 师 (pronounced shī), when applied as a suffix, can indicate either (1) a teacher, tutor or master, or (2) a person skilled or specialised in a certain profession. The word has connotations of “expertise” or “mastery” of something and carries a sense of respect.

Other words containing 师 often relate to military matters.

Students of Chinese usually first encounter 师 in the HSK1 word 老师 (meaning ‘teacher’). Students may next encounter 师 in the HSK4 words 律师 (meaning ‘lawyer’) or 师傅 – a polite term of address which has no culturally-comparable expression in English and is therefore usually awkwardly translated as ‘master worker’.

The next and only instance of 师 included in the HSK lists is the HSK6 noun 师范, meaning ‘teacher training’. (A school which trains teachers is a 师范学校, for example.)

Derivations using 师

The following words use 师 as a suffix to indicate a kind of ‘teacher’ or ‘instructor’:

Derivation using 师 Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
老师
教师
讲师
导师
名师
大师
lǎoshī
jiàoshī
jiǎngshī
dǎoshī
míngshī
dàshī
a teacher
a teacher
a lecturer
a tutor; a teacher
a famous master; a great teacher
a great master
HSK1




The following words use 师 as a suffix to indicate ‘a person skilled in a certain profession’ (other than teaching):

Derivation using 师 Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
律师
工程师
建筑师
厨师
技师
分析师
会计师
lǜshī
gōngchéngshī
jiànzhúshī
chúshī
jìshī
fēnxīshī
kuàijìshī
a lawyer
an engineer
an architect
a chef
a technician
an analyst
a treasurer; a chartered accountant
HSK4
HSK5





2) The 生 Character
生.jpg
The character 生 (pronounced shēng) is usually first encountered by learners of Chinese as the suffix indicating a person in the HSK1 word 学生 (meaning ‘student’). Other HSK1 words with 生 include 医生 (‘doctor’) and 先生 (‘Mr.’).

With the exception of 先生 and 医生, as a suffix indicating a person, 生 usually relates to individuals who are engaged in some kind of study.

In the wider usage of the word, 生 has a wide variety of meanings and grammatical applications, but the term is often related to ‘life’ or ‘birth’. Beginner students of Chinese are likely to next encounter 生 used as a verb in the phrases 生病 (‘to become ill’), 生气 (‘to be angry’) and 生活 (‘to live’).

Derivations using 生

The following words use 生 as a suffix to indicate a kind of ‘student’:

Derivation using 生
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
学生
留学生
大学生
研究生
本科学生
小学生
中学生
高中学生
女生
男生
xuéshēng
liúxuéshēng
dàxuéshēng
yánjiūshēng
běnkēxuéshēng
xiǎoxuéshēng
zhōngxuéshēng
gāozhōngxuéshēng
nǚshēng
nánshēng
a student
a foreign student
a university student
a postgraduate student
an undergraduate student
a primary school student
a middle school student
a high school student
a schoolgirl
a schoolboy
HSK1








The following words use 生 as a suffix to indicate persons other than students:

Derivation using 生
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
先生
医生
实习生
考生
书生
xiānshēng
yīshēng
shíxíshēng
kǎoshēng
shūshēng
Mr.
a doctor
an intern
an examination candidate
a scholar; an intellectual
HSK1
HSK1



3) The 员 Character

员.jpgThe character 员 (pronounced yuán), when applied as a suffix, can indicate either (1) a person engaged in a certain job or field of work or (2) a person who is a member of a certain team or organisation.

Beginner students will probably first encounter the character 员 in the HSK2 word 服务员 (meaning ‘waiter’ or ‘waitress’.) The character is next seen in the HSK4 words 演员 (‘actor’, ‘actress’ or ‘performer’) and 售货员 (‘shop assistant’).

Note that some words with 员 – for example, 人员, 工作人员 and 员工 – can mean ‘(work) staff’ or ‘personnel’ in general. The verb-object phrase 裁员 means ‘to cut staff’ or ‘to reduce staff’.

In the wider usage of the character, 员 may relate to military organisation and action. The verb-object phrase 动员 means ‘mobilize (troops)’, for example.

Derivations using 员

The following words use 员 as a suffix to indicate a ‘person engaged in a certain job or field of work’:

Derivation using 员
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
服务员
演员
售货员
售票员
飞行员
航天员
保安员
船员
海员
店员
教员
话务员
译员
专员
业务员
乘务员
fúwùyuán
yǎnyuán
shòuhuòyuán
shòupiàoyuán
fēixíngyuán
hángtiānyuán
bǎo’ānyuán
chuányuán
hǎiyuán
diànyuán
jiàoyuán
huàwùyuán
yìyuán
zhuānyuán
yèwù yuán
chéngwùyuán
a waiter; a waitress
a performer; an actor; an actress
a shop assistant; a sales clerk
a ticket collector; a booking office clerk
a pilot; an aviator
an astronaut
a security guard
a crew member; a sailor
a sailor; a seaman
a shop assistant; a shop clerk
a teacher
a telephone operator
an interpreter
an assistant director; a commissioner
a salesperson
an attendant (on a train, boat etc.)
HSK2
HSK4
HSK4












The following words use 员 as a suffix to indicate a kind of ‘team member’ or ‘member of an organisation’:

Derivation using 员
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
人员
成员
团员
委员
党员
共产党员
雇员
官员
会员
工会会员
学员
球员
议员
社员
要员
rényuán
chéngyuán
tuányuán
wěiyuán
dǎngyuán
gòngchǎndǎngyuán
gùyuán
guānyuán
huìyuán
gōnghuìhuìyuán
xuéyuán
qiúyuán
yìyuán
shèyuán
yàoyuán
a member; a staff member
a member (of a group or family)
a member (of a group, delegation, etc.)
a committee member
a member of a political party
a Communist Party member
an employee
a government official; a government worker
a member (of an organisation)
a trade union member
a student (of a college, training course, etc.)
a member of a ball team
a member of a legislative assembly
a member (of a club, society, etc.)
a key participant; an important official
HSK5
HSK6

HSK6











4) The 家 Character

家.jpgThe character 家 (pronounced jiā) has a wide range of meanings, but learners of Chinese will probably first encounter this word in the context of ‘family’ or ‘home’.

The character 家, when used as a suffix, can indicate a person’s occupation or profession. The noun 专家 (meaning ‘expert’) suggests that occupational roles using the suffix 家 require specialised skills or knowledge. In addition, other words with 家 as a suffix imply a person whom should be respected: The word 名家 indicates ‘a person of academic or artistic distinction’ whilst 行家 can be translated as ‘expert’ or ‘connoisseur’.

The word 学家, meaning scholar, can also act as a suffix to certain other nouns to indicate a person who is involved in scholarly research or work; for example, 经济学家 (‘an economist’) and 历史学家 (‘a historian’).

Derivations using 家

The following words use 家 as a suffix to indicate a person with a specialised occupation:

Derivation using 家
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
作家
专家
艺术家
画家
书法家
文学家
科学家
化学家
zuòjiā
zhuānjiā
yìshùjiā
huàjiā
shūfǎjiā
wénxuéjiā
kēxuéjiā
huàxuéjiā
a writer; an author
an expert
an artist
an artist
a calligrapher
a writer; a man of letters
a scientist
a chemist
HSK4
HSK5





The following words use 学家 as a suffix to indicate a person involved in scholarly research or work:

Derivation using 家
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
学家
名家
行家
地理学家
经济学家
考古学家
历史学家
社会学家
数学家
语言学家
哲学家
xuéjiā
míngjiā
hángjiā
dìlǐ xué jiā
jīngjìxuéjiā
kǎogǔxuéjiā
lìshǐxuéjiā
shèhuìxuéjiā
shùxuéjiā
yǔyánxuéjiā
zhéxuéjiā
a scholar
a person of academic or artistic distinction
an expert; a connoisseur; an “old hand”
a geographer
an economist
an archaeologist
an historian
a sociologist
a mathematician
a linguist
a philosopher











5) The 者 Character

者.jpgThe character 者 (pronounced zhě), when used as a suffix, can indicate (1) a person engaged in a type of work, (2) a person who adheres to a certain belief or ideology or (3) a person who is inclined to a certain activity or action or (4) a person (or organism or thing) which can be categorised in a group with certain characteristics.

Beginner students will probably first encounter the character 者 in the HSK3 conjunction 或者 (meaning ‘or’). 记者 and 作者, meaning ‘reporter’ and ‘writer’ respectively, are listed in HSK4.

There are an especially large number of person words with the suffix 者. This is mainly because of the pattern 主义者, which refers to someone who adheres to a certain belief or ideology, can be suffixed to a large number of nouns. For example, 完美 (‘perfect’) can be suffixed with 主义 (‘ideology’) and 者 to make the word 完美主义者 (‘a perfectionist’).

Derivations using 者

The following words use 者 as a suffix to indicate a ‘person engaged in a type of work’:

Derivation using 者
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
记者
作者
使者
音乐工作者
jìzhě
zuòzhě
shǐzhě
yīnyuègōngzuòzhě
a reporter; a journalist
a writer; an author
an emissary; an envoy; a messenger
a musician
HSK4
HSK4

The following words use 者 as a suffix to indicate ‘a person who adheres to a certain belief or ideology’:

Derivation using 者
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
素食主义者
马克思主义者
社会主义者
完美主义者
理想主义者
现实主义者
个人主义者
和平主义者
sùshízhǔyìzhě
mǎkèsīzhǔyìzhě
shèhuìzhǔyìzhě
wánměizhǔyìzhě
lǐxiǎngzhǔyìzhě
xiànshízhǔyìzhě
gèrénzhǔyìzhě
hépíngzhǔyìzhě
a vegetarian
a Marxist
a socialist
a perfectionist
an idealist
a realist
an individualist
a pacifist







The following words use 者 as a suffix to indicate ‘a person who is inclined to a certain activity or action’:

Derivation using 者
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
志愿者
患者
爱好者
消费者
生产者
读者
学者
zhìyuànzhě
huànzhě
àihàozhě
xiāofèizhě
shēngchǎnzhě
dúzhě
xuézhě
a volunteer
a patient (at a hospital, etc.)
a hobbiest; an enthusiast
a consumer
a producer (of goods, etc.)
a reader (of a magazine, etc.)
a scholar; a learned person
HSK5
HSK6




The following words use 者 as a suffix to indicate a ‘person which can be categorised in a group with certain characteristics’:

Derivation using 者
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
老者
强者
弱者
lǎozhě
qiángzhě
ruòzhě
an old person
a strong person; a powerhouse
a weak person; a weakling



6) The 人 Character

人.jpgThe character 人 (pronounced rén) usually relates to ‘people’. It can be used as a standalone noun meaning ‘a person’.

Words with 人 applied as a suffix describe a type of person. Often the character 人 is added to an adjective (e.g. 老人 an old person, 男人 a male person, 穷人 a poor person).

As a general rule, 人 may also be added after the name of a country or region to indicate a person from that place. Thus 美国人 means ‘an American’ and 西班牙人 means ‘a Spanish person’. Similarly, 中国人 means ‘a Chinese person’ while 外国人 means ‘a foreigner’ (i.e. someone from outside of China.)

Derivations using 人

The following words use 人 as a suffix to indicate a person’s nationality or place of origin:

Derivation using 人
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
中国人
外国人
英国人
美国人
西班牙人
越南人
日本人
香港人
北京人
zhōngguórén
wàiguórén
yīngguórén
měiguórén
xībānyárén
yuènánrén
rìběnrén
xiānggǎngrén
běijīngrén
a Chinese person
a foreigner (i.e. a non-Chinese person)
an English person
an American
a Spanish person
a Vietnamese person
a Japanese person
a person from Hong Kong
a person from Beijing








The following words use 人 as a suffix to indicate a person’s relationship within a family structure:

Derivation using 人
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
亲人
家人
夫人
丈人
先人
爱人
情人
下人
qīnrén
jiārén
fūrén
zhàngrén
xiānrén
àirén
qíngrén
xiàrén
a member of one’s family; a close relative
a member of one’s family
a lady; a wife (polite)
a wife’s father; a father-in-law
an ancestor
a husband or wife; a lover
a lover
a domestic servant (old fashioned term)


HSK6




The following words use 人 as a suffix to indicate a type of person more generally:

Derivation using 人
Pin Yin Definition(s) HSK Level
工人
男人
女人
老人
年轻人
成人
大人
客人
主人
好人
坏人
穷人
富人
病人
行人
旁人
过路人
黑人
白人
陌生人
敌人
当事人
诗人
读书人
军人
创始人
代理人
投保人
主持人
收款人
gōngrén
nánrén
nǚrén
lǎorén
niánqīngrén
chéngrén
dàrén
kèrén
zhǔrén
hǎorén
huàirén
qióngrén
fùrén
bìngrén
xíngrén
pángrén
guòlù rén
hēirén
báirén
mòshēngrén
dírén
dāngshìrén
shīrén
dúshūrén
jūnrén
chuàngshǐrén
dàilǐrén
tóubǎorén
zhǔchírén
shōukuǎnrén
a worker
a man
a woman
an old person
a young person
an adult
an adult
a guest; a customer; a visitor
a host
a good person
a bad person
a poor person
a rich person
a sick person
a pedestrian
a bystander
a passer-by
a black person
a white person
a stranger
an enemy
a person involved in a certain affair
a poet
a reader
a soldier; a serviceman
a founder; an originator
an agent; a proxy
an insured person; an insurance policy holder
a host (of a television show, etc.)
a payee; a person who receives payment
HSK5




HSK5

HSK5






HSK5





HSK5
HSK6








Summary

Despite exceptions, words associated with 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人 may be classified into groups usually relating to the original or standalone meaning of each character. Therefore, when considering words using these characters as suffixes indicating people, it may be useful for learners of Chinese to remember that (exceptions notwithstanding):

1) 师 usually refers to teachers or “masters”.
2) 生 usually refers to students.
3) 员 usually refers to occupations or members of teams or organisations.
4) 家 usually refers to persons with specialist or scholarly occupations.
5) 者 and 人 have a wide range of uses.

Learners should also be careful, however, not to associate all instances of 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人 at the end of words or phrases with people-related terms. For example, 出师 means ‘to complete one’s apprenticeship’ or ‘dispatch troops to battle’, 发生 means ‘to happen’, 裁员 means ‘to cut staff’, 国家 means ‘country’, 或者 means ‘or’ and 丢人 means ‘to lose face’.

Nonetheless, by paying attention to the original or standalone meanings of 师, 生, 员, 家, 者 and 人, students of Chinese may more efficiently learn and understand nouns indicating people.

References and Further Reading

1. New Practical Chinese Reader (2013) Books 1-6.
2. 常用汉字组词搭配词典 (2011), p.352 (师), p.350 (生), p.473 (员), p.491 (者), p.331-332 (人).
3. 卓越汉语:公司实战篇 (2012).
4. Business Chinese: An Advanced Reader 商货汉语高级读本 (2004).
5. Chinese Measure Words Without Tears 汉语量词学习手册 (2010), p.129 (位), p.103 (名).
6. 现代汉语规范词典: 第3版 (2014), p.1183 (师), p.1172 (生), p.1619 (员), p.1669 (者), p.1102 (人).

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What is the difference between 怕,害怕,恐怕,可怕,恐怖 and 恐惧?

Chinese has a number of words related to ‘fear’ and ‘being afraid’. Let’s look at these words in detail to see how they differ from each other.

害怕

恐怕

可怕

恐怖

恐惧

Pinyin hài pà kǒng pà kě pà kǒng bù kǒng jù
HSK Level HSK 3 HSK 4 HSK 5 HSK 6 HSK 6
Pleco Definitions 1. to be afraid
2. to fear
3. to dread
4. to be unable
to endure
5. perhaps
1. to be afraid
2. to be scared
1. fear
2. to dread
3. I’m afraid that…
4. Perhaps
5. Maybe
1. awful
2. dreadful
3. fearful
4. formidable
5. frightful
6. scary
7. hideous
8. horrible
9. terrible
10. terribly
1. terrible
2. frightful
3. frightening
4. terror
5. terrorist
1. fear
2. dread
3. phobia

怕

As we can see from the above table, the character 怕 is present in many of these words. Surprisingly, it’s not included in the HSK word lists as a standalone word although it is often used this manner.

怕 is commonly translated as ‘to be afraid’ or ‘to fear’. The word implies the speaker feels agitated or nervous as a result of something fearful. It usually takes an object.

我怕狗。
I’m afraid of dogs.

怕 can also mean ‘to worry’. In this sense, it is synonymous with the verb 担心.

堵车了,我怕我赶不上飞机。
There’s a traffic jam. I’m anxious I’m going to miss the plane.

怕 can be used to describe an aversion to something. In this sense, the meaning is an exaggeration and can even be slightly playful in tone.

夏天还穿毛衣啊?你怕冷吗?
It’s summer and you’re still wearing a jumper? Are you afraid of the cold?

怕 can also be used as an adverb, but this meaning is not related to the idea of ‘fear’. When used as an adverb, 怕 means ‘approximately’. This usage is not so common. (An approximation is more often expressed with 大概.)

这孩子怕有十二三岁了。
This child is about twelve or thirteen years old.


害怕

The two character verb 害怕 is practically synonymous with the verb 怕, although 害怕 often doesn’t take an object.

这是我第一次坐飞机,我很害怕!
This is my first time flying, I’m really afraid!

Note that both 怕 and 害怕 can take intensifier complements (such as 极了 and 得很.)

看牙医让我儿子害怕极了。
My son is absolutely terrified of going to the dentist.


恐怕

恐怕 has a meaning very distinct from 害怕. As a verb, it can express ‘worry’ or ‘misgivings’ about something.

妈妈恐怕孩子走错路。
The mother worried that her child had lost his way.

恐怕 is often used as an adverb meaning ‘I’m afraid that…’ or ‘perhaps’. Notice that this meaning is not about fear per se, but rather describes the possibility of a situation that may be considered unfortunate. It is often used at the beginning of a sentence, expressing the speaker’s view on a matter. 恐怕 can also be shortened to 怕 in this adverbial meaning.

他生病了,恐怕他今天不能上课。
I’m afraid he’s ill so he won’t be able to come to class today.


可怕

可怕  is an adjective which can describe something that ‘makes people scared’. It is an informal expression more commonly used in spoken Chinese.

王经理很可怕,开会的时候经常骂人。
Manager Wang is scary. He often shouts at people during meetings.


恐怖

The adjective 恐怖 can describe a method or atmosphere that is ‘frightening’ or ‘terrible’. Notice that it describes a thing or situation that is terrifying, and not the feelings of a person.

这部电影好恐怖啊,我不敢看了!
This movie is too frightening, I can’t watch it anymore.

The noun 恐怖 can be translated as ‘terror’. As a noun, 恐怖 is not often used as a standalone word. 恐怖 is often seen in other noun phrases such as 恐怖主义 (terrorism), 恐怖主义者 or 恐怖分子(terrorist), 恐怖组织 (terrorist organization), 恐怖袭击 (terrorist attack), 恐怖片 and 恐怖电影 (horror movie).


恐惧

At first glance, 恐惧 and 恐怖 might appear similar. However, whilst 恐怖 can be used as a noun or an adjective, 恐惧 usually cannot be used as a noun. The main difference, however, is that 恐怖 refers to the object that causes fear, whilst 恐惧 refers to the psychological state of a person who is afraid.

他的脸上流露出恐惧的神色。
His face revealed an expression of fear.


Summary

The following table summarizes the grammatical uses of each word, according to 现代汉语规范词典 (the Standard Dictionary of Modern Chinese):

  害怕 恐怕 可怕 恐怖 恐惧
Verb
Yes Yes Yes
Noun Yes
Adjective Yes Yes Yes
Adverb Yes Yes

References and Further Reading

1. 汉语近义词学习手册, p.118-119.
2. 现代汉语规范词典, p.978 (怕), p.512 (害怕), p.748 (可怕), p.758 (恐怕, 恐怖 and 恐惧).
3. Chinesepod, https://chinesepod.com/lessons/describing-fear
4. iCIBA句库, http://dj.iciba.com/%E6%81%90%E6%80%95-1.html

What is the difference between 胡说,乱说,废话 and 瞎说?

Chinese has a number of words meaning ‘nonsense’ or ‘speak nonsense’, but what exactly is the difference in usage?

胡说

乱说

废话

瞎说

Pinyin hú shuō luàn shuō fèi huà xiā shuō
HSK Level HSK 5 n/a HSK 5 n/a
Pleco Definitions 1. to talk nonsense; drivel
2. nonsense
1. to speak carelessly or foolishly
2. to talk in a scatterbrained way
3. to talk nonsense
4. to make irresponsible remarks
1. superfluous words
2. nonsense
3. rubbish
1. to talk groundlessly or irresponsibly
2. to talk nonsense

There are also a number of set phrases and 成语 which have meanings related to ‘nonsense’, such as 胡言乱语,胡说八道 and 瞎扯蛋. Let’s look at each of these words and phrases in turn.


胡说

胡说 is most commonly used as a verb. The object of 胡说 can be 话 (i.e. 胡说话 ‘to speak nonsense’). This term apparently derives from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 AD), when the people from the central plains of China referred to the language of the non-Han nomadic peoples (胡人) in the north and west of China as 胡说. Since their language was largely unintelligible to the Han Chinese, the association with ‘nonsense’ arose.

In modern spoken Chinese, 胡 is an adverb which means ‘recklessly’, ‘foolishly’ or ‘wildly’. Therefore, the kind of nonsense referred to by 胡说 is often some kind of exaggeration or overstatement.

别胡说了。
Don’t talk nonsense!

你他妈的在胡说些什么?
What the fuck are you talking about?

胡说八道 is a set phrase which can function as a verb, meaning nonsense that is ‘without foundation or justification’.

他很喜欢胡说八道。
He likes talking nonsense.


乱说

The verb 乱说 has a very similar usage to 胡说, and can also use 话 as its object (i.e. 乱说话 ‘to speak nonsense’). 乱 is an adjective which means ‘in disorder’, ‘in a mess’ or ‘in confusion’. The kind of nonsense referred to by 乱说 might be considered irresponsible and could have unintended consequences.

他每次喝多了以后,都跟酒吧里每个人乱说话。
Every time he gets drunk, he talks nonsense with everyone in the bar.

The set phrase 乱说乱动 can also be used as an verb to describe someone who ‘talks and acts in an irresponsible way’.


废话

Unlike 胡说 and 乱说, 废话 is more commonly used as a noun. It can be used with the verb 说 (i.e. 说废话 ‘to speak nonsense’). 废 is an adjective which can mean ‘useless’ or ‘waste’. Therefore the kind of nonsense referred to by 废话 is language that is excessive and unnecessary. Colloquially, 废话 could be also translated as ‘bullshit’ (American English slang).

废话!
Nonsense!

别说废话!
Don’t talk nonsense!

我受够了你的废话!
I’ve had enough of your bullshit!


瞎说

Like 胡说 and 乱说, 瞎说 is most commonly used as a verb and can use 话 as its object (i.e. 瞎说话 ‘to speak nonsense’). The adverb 瞎 can mean ‘blind’, ’groundlessly’, ‘foolishly’ or ‘to no purpose’. The implication of 瞎说 is that this kind of nonsense is ‘without foundation’ and ‘without purpose’.

别瞎说了!
Don’t be ridiculous!


胡言乱语

胡言乱语 is a 成语 which can function as a verb, noun or adjective. 胡乱 means ‘reckless’ or ‘absent-minded’, and 语言 refers to language. As a verb, 胡言乱语 means ‘to talk nonsense’ or ‘to babble nonsense’. As a noun, it means ‘crazy and unfounded ramblings’. 胡言乱语 can also mean utterances that are completely nonsensical (i.e. indecipherable speech, due to a lack of linguistic coherence.)

为什么有人喝醉酒后会胡言乱语?
Why do some people talk nonsense when they get drunk?

我爷爷年纪很大,他经常胡言乱语。
My grandfather is very old. He often goes off on crazy and unfounded ramblings.


Other Related Terms

虾扯蛋image瞎扯蛋 also means ‘to talk irresponsibly’ or ‘to talk nonsense’. Literally, 瞎扯蛋 means ‘to pull on your testicles aimlessly’. It’s not quite profanity, but it’s not really a polite expression either. 虾扯蛋 (literally meaning ‘a shrimp pulls an egg’) is a homophone of 瞎扯蛋 and might be considered an internet meme. If someone is talking nonsense online, you could post a picture of 虾扯蛋. I wouldn’t recommend using these terms.

瞎扯 is a less vulgar term than 瞎扯蛋, although the association is clear. 瞎扯, used as a verb, also means ‘to talk groundlessly or irresponsibly’ and ‘to talk nonsense’, but it can also mean ‘to talk at random about anything under the sun’, ‘to waffle’ and ‘to natter’. It is used much less frequently than other terms discussed above.


Summary

胡说,乱说 and 瞎说 all have a similar meaning of speech that is ‘without basis’ and can more-or-less be used interchangeably. 胡说 appears to be the most commonly used expression. These verbs are often used in the structure 别 + 胡说/乱说/瞎说, which can be used to respond to a perceived utterance of nonsense. 废话, in contrast, is usually used as a noun.

Other terms such as 胡言乱语 and 胡说八道 can add emphasis and literary colour. 胡言乱语 is notable because it can describe speech that is linguistically incoherent.


References and Further Reading

1. 新世纪版 成语词典 (2011修订), p.270.
2. Baidu Dictionary, http://dict.baidu.com/s?wd=胡说八道
3. Baidu Encyclopedia, http://baike.baidu.com/view/1741.htm
4. Baidu Q&A Forum, http://zhidao.baidu.com/link?url=CNj5sSOOgKsVNqjHAqKv9F9ysA24A0OFNxOQK-wD9dLXM38ArACjcGdrlIE7VjBNSGr1xEjHGa9lyvFMGieLDq

What is the difference between 附近 and 就近?

Pleco dictionary gives similar English meanings to the words 附近 and 就近. So what’s the difference in usage?

附近

就近

Pinyin fù jìn jiù jìn
HSK Level HSK 3 HSK 5
Pleco Definitions 1. (in the) vicinity 2. nearby

3. neighboring

4. next to

1. nearby 2. in a close neighborhood

附近

附近 can be used as a noun after a location noun phrase (e.g. 这里,那里,办公室,火车站) meaning a location “in the vicinity” of the place noun. In spoken Chinese, this usually refers to something within approximately 200 meters of the location noun phrase.

火车站附近很难打车。
It’s difficult to get a taxi near the train station.

我想去步行街附近买衣服。
I want to go the area near the High Street to buy clothes.

If the location noun phrase is 这里, usually it is omitted from the sentence.

(这里)附近有很多很cool的酒吧。
There are lots of cool bars nearby.

It is often used after 在 to indicate the location where an action happens.

我在附近上班。
I work nearby.

我朋友在电影院附近丢了手机。
My friend lost his phone near the cinema.


就近

就近 is usually used as an adverb meaning “nearby”. It’s usually placed directly before the verb.

我们就近吃饭吧。
Let’s eat nearby.

小王打算和朋友就近打一会儿球。
Xiao Wang plans to play ball with his friend nearby for a while.