Going Places in China

Word of the week: dào

108162222211434984429Sometimes things just don’t directly translate from one language to another. In fact it happens quite a lot.

Take the English word “go”, which is qù 去 in Chinese. In English you can say “go to London” and in Chinese you can say “qù London”

But in Chinese it is also quite common to hear the destination sandwiched between the word dào 到 (arrive) and qù 去 (go), so you have a sentence that reads “dào London qù”. That is, “arrive London go”, which doesn’t really make sense in English but just means the same, “go to London”.

The “dào… qù” sentence structure is particularly common when replying to a question:

qù nǎ?

Where are you going?

wǒ dào yī yuàn qù

I’m going to the hospital

You can also use the negative bù dào 不到 (not arrive) after numbers (plus measure word) to indicate less than that number. So if someone asks how much your noodles cost you can say:

èr shí kuài qián bù dào

less than 20 RMB

Or if someone asks how far it is

yì bǎi mǐ bù dào

less than 100 metres

You can also say dōu bù dào 都不到 to translate as “not even”.


nǐ xúe le dūo cháng shí jiān?

How long have you studied?

yì nián dōu bù dào

Not even one year


tā hē le dūo shǎo?

how much did he drink?

sān píng dōu bù dào

not even three bottles