Mandarin Love: I Miss You (in Chinese)

A blonde girl looking up with a longing look on her face
(photo by Lavinia Marin)

During that first Autumn I dated John, I truly learned the meaning of “I miss you” in Chinese.

John started his graduate studies at a university in Shanghai, and I stayed back in Hangzhou because of my job. I craved those weekends every two weeks when John returned to Hangzhou like a heroin addict craves their next hit. Which is why, when John wasn’t in town, I’d spend an embarrassing amount of time envisioning our next weekend together — from the the restaurants and the sights we’d see right down to how I’d greet him when he stepped off the bus in front of my community.

So one night, I decided to greet him with an idiom that captured all of the yearning in my heart (a yearning that, admittedly, must have been so nauseating to my Chinese friends at work that they taught me said idiom to get me off the subject). That weekend, I met John at the bus stop with a dozen red roses and the phrase wàngchuānqiūshuǐ (to look forward to or await with restless anticipation).

John loved it, though I’m certain my friend Caroline called the whole scene “nauseating” when I shared it with her at work.

Now that Spring is upon us, a season of longing and love, I thought I’d share a few good Chinese idioms that come in handy when you’re missing or thinking of your sweetheart, or just can’t wait to see them. Each explanation comes with my own intentionally nauseating example of how to use it (you know you love it, Caroline). 😉

望穿秋水 [wàngchuānqiūshuǐ]; 望眼欲穿 [wàngyǎnyùchuān]; 殷切盼望 [yīnqiēpànwàng]
All three of these mean essentially the same thing — “to look forward to something/someone with eager anticipation.”

I looked forward to John with great anticipation as I waited for him at the bus stop.
Wǒ zài Gōngjiāochēzhàn wàngchuānqiūshuǐ de děng John.

急不可待 [jíbùkědài]; 迫不及待 [pòbùjídài]
Remember those jitters you had just before your first date (or weekend out) with someone special? Here are two perfect idioms to capture that feeling — both mean “to be extremely anxious/to be too impatient to wait.”

I couldn’t wait for my date with John, so that I wanted to leave early.
Wǒ pòbùjídài de xiǎng gēn John yuēhuì,yǐzhìyú pànwàngzhe zǎodiǎn xiàbān.

一日不见,如隔三秋 [yīrì bùjiàn,rúgé sānqiū]
This literally means “one day apart from someone seems like three years.”

One day apart felt like three years in my relationship with John.
Wǒ gēn John de guānxi kěyǐ shuō yírì bújiàn,rúgé sānqiū.

朝思暮想 [zhāosīmùxiǎng]
Are you the kind of person who longs for your Sweetie all the time? Then you need this idiom, which means to “long for/think of [someone] day and night.”

The way I yearned for John day and night “nauseated” my friend Caroline.
Wǒ duì John de zhāosīmùxiǎng ràng wǒ de péngyou Caroline gǎndào “ěxīn.”

念念不忘 [niànniànbúwàng]
This phrase means “to keep something/someone in mind all the time.” It’s not a love-only idiom, but you can definitely use it if you always hold that someone special in your thoughts.

John is always on my mind no matter where he is.
Bù guǎn tā zài nǎlǐ, wǒ duì John niànniànbúwàng.

魂牵梦萦 [húnqiānmèngyíng]; 刻骨相思 [kègǔxiāngsī]
These idioms provide you with the easiest way to express your longing. Both mean “to miss very much/to long for someone.”

I missed John very much when he wasn’t in Hangzhou.
John búzài Hángzhōu shí, wǒ duì tā húnqiānmèngyíng.

What phrases did I miss? What are your favorites?

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18 Replies to “Mandarin Love: I Miss You (in Chinese)”

  1. @Jocelyn, I think you are a romantic soul! Chinese idioms do help when you are pining for your beloved I guess. I do not have a personal favourite myself (maybe I am not so romantic), but when I was a kid, sometimes I would hear the adults say 望穿秋水 and of course I did not understand. 一日三秋 yiri sanqiu one day seems like three years (for lovers away from each other) could perhaps succintly substitute for 一日不见, 如隔三秋 yiribujian rugesanqiu. Nice that you were able to use the idioms to help lessen your pining for John. Ha ha and there is no shame in it. After all, what is a language for – seriously?

  2. @Jocelyn, I think you are a romantic soul! I guess Chinese idioms do help when you are pining for someone. I do not have a personal favourite (maybe I am not so romantic lah!), but when I was a kid I would sometimes hear the adults say 望穿秋水 wangchuan qiushui and of course I did not understand. 一日三秋 yiri sanqiu (one day seems like three years – for lovers away from each other) may perhaps succinctly speak for 一日不见, 如隔三秋. Nice that you were able to use Chinese idioms to lessen your pining for John. Ha ha and there is nothing wrong with that. After all, what is a language for if it does not help when needed – seriously!

  3. 看起来你和John俩个真是情意绵绵相亲相爱。
    不过在大庭广众下,是有点肉麻。难怪Caroline说你“恶心” 🙂

  4. 我只是说有一点吗。其实好和可爱哦,真让人羡幕。

    My favorite phrases are 情深似海,海枯石烂不变心。

    The perception of public display of affection varies between Chinese culture and western culture. While it is not a big deal here in US, it definitely stirs up debate in Chinese culture.

  5. I just discovered your blog and your theme is very interesting! I think a lot of western people must find it quite hard to learn how to speak conversational Chinese.

    I’m passionate about teaching people how to speak Chinese by using the most natural and efficient way, and I’ve discovered <a href=""6 rules of learning how to speak Chinese effortlessly.

    I think we can exchange some idea in the coming future, and good luck for your learning progress! 🙂

  6. keep these types of blogs coming, Jocelyn! The readers find it very useful to have not only cultural lessons but also language lessons intertwined within! Now, we can directly apply what we’ve learned!

    It’s important also for the readers with a Chinese loved one to be able to learn Chinese.

    Hope to see more of these blogs with Chinese lessons in the future!

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