Multiverse of 意思 (Yìsi)

by | Jan 20, 2022 | Chinese Vocabulary

You probably already know the words 意思 (yìsi, “meaning”) and 不好意思 (bù hǎoyìsi, “I’m sorry”) in Mandarin. They are commonly used in sentences like:

  • 这是什么意思?
  • Zhè shì shénme yìsi?
  • What does it mean?
  • 我迟到了, 不好意思!
  • Wǒ chídào le, bù hǎoyìsi!
  • Sorry I’m late!

But did you know both of them have many more meanings — there’s really a multiverse of 意思 yìsi (meaning) 🤯

Watch our teacher Naren 老师 lǎoshī break down these words in this week’s video 👇

意思 yìsi

意思 Yìsi | Learn Chinese with NihaoCafe




The original meaning of 意思 (yìsi) is “meaning” or “idea”. You’ll often hear people say:

  • 我的意思是…
  • Wǒ de yìsi shì …
  • I mean … / What I mean is …
  • 这句话是什么意思
  • Zhè jù huà shì shénme yìsi?
  • What does this sentence mean?

But, besides the original meaning, there are a few more ways to use 意思 yìsi 👇

意思 Yìsi | Learn Chinese with NihaoCafe




Use this phrase to say that something is “interesting”:


  • 有意思/没有意思
  • Yǒuyìsi / méiyǒuyìsi
  • Interesting / not interesting (boring)
  • 我看了一部很火的电影,叫 “长城”,太有意思了!
  • Wǒ kàn le yī bù hěn huǒ de diànyǐng jiào “Chángchéng”, tài yǒuyìsi le!
  • I watched a very popular movie “The Great Wall”. So interesting!
意思 Yìsi | Learn Chinese with NihaoCafe




Another way to use 意思 (yìsi) is to express one’s gratitude by presenting a gift. In this case, you can say:


  • 意思意思
  • Yìsi yìsi
  • to be grateful = to give a little present
  • 我帮了你这么大的忙,你不意思意思吗?
  • Wǒ bāng le nǐ zhème dà de máng, nǐ bù yìsi yìsi ma?
  • I helped you a lot, aren’t you going to get me something (= give me a little present in return)?
不好意思 Bù hǎo yìsi | Learn Chinese with NihaoCafe


不好意思 bù hǎoyìsi | “TO FEEL SORRY”


  • 今天的会议我迟到了,太不好意思了!
  • Jīntiān de huìyì wǒ chídào le, tài bù hǎoyìsi le!
  • I was late for the meeting today, I’m so sorry!
不好意思 Bù hǎo yìsi | Learn Chinese with NihaoCafe


不好意思 bù hǎoyìsi | “TO FEEL EMBARRASSED”


If you happen to be in a situation that makes you feel ashamed of something or embarrassed, you can also say:


  • 不好意思!
  • Bù hǎoyìsi!
  • (It’s) so embarrassing!
  • 今天在地铁上摔了一跤, 那么多人看我。别提,多不好意思了!
  • Jīntiān zài dìtiě shàng shuāi le yijiāo, nàme duō rén kān wǒ. Bié tí, duō bù hǎoyìsi le!
  • I fell down on the subway today, so many people saw me. Don’t even mention it, (it was) so embarrassing!

View this post on all our social media accounts – and see how other learners have replied to it! 👉

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