Hitting things in China: dǎ

Word of the week: dǎ


In China the easiest way to get around is to hit a taxi (dǎ dī), or you could hit a car (dǎ chē), which is obviously not the same as getting hit by a car. It just means “take a taxi”.

In fact the word hit (dǎ) has far more general use in Chinese than the English word does. If you want to call you friends you can hit a phone (dǎ diàn huà), the guys might want to get together to hit a ball (dǎ qiú) and hit open (dǎ kāi) a few beers afterwards. Or you could hit open (dǎ kāi) the TV and see if anything good is on.

The examples seem almost endless, which is why the word dǎ 打 is an important one to learn even if your Chinese is only a basic level.

taxis are relatively cheap in China

taxis are relatively cheap in China

Although it is perfectly acceptable to say say “zán men dǎ dī, zěn me yang? (How about we take a taxi?) Caution is advised because you can’t always dǎ other forms of transport.

For example, if you were to say hit an aeroplane (dǎ fēi jī) it wouldn’t mean take an aeroplane. Take an aeroplane is dā fēi jī with different tones and characters for “da”. Taking an aeroplane is something you do when you want to get to another city far away. By contrast hitting an aeroplane is something a teenage boy might do with a sock in his bedroom…

So here we have yet another example of why the tones are so important in Chinese. If you get them wrong you might end up saying it took you 13 hours to masturbate your way from London to Shanghai.

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