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Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 is an entertaining weekly dose of interesting words, phrases and idioms from the week’s news for learners of Chinese who want to take their language skills to the next level.
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12 ways to say URGENT in Chinese (立刻 – lì kè)2 min read

27 February 2021 2 min read

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12 ways to say URGENT in Chinese (立刻 – lì kè)2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

China has made 200 years of industrial revolution, and urbanisation, happen in the last 40 years.

There are many factors that have helped make this happen – not least the intense ambition of normal Chinese people to better their circumstances. But I think at least one reason is the Chinese language, and as a consequence, how Chinese people think and engage with reality. Specifically, how Chinese people think about time and urgency.

First, the concept of time in Chinese.

There is no tense in Chinese. Someone who is the chairman today, and he is chairman 50 years ago. There is no grammar, really, that defines something that has happened, is happening or will happen, as there is in English. Past, present and future, linguistically and in reality, merge into a continuum that is far more fluid (at least to me) that in the English-speaking reality.

In defining time, Chinese grammar only focusses on two things: if the state of something or a situation changes, and if something is completed. The rest is done by knowing or defining the context.

Second, there are LOADS of ways to say “its urgent” or “get it done very quickly” in Chinese.

So far, I have counted FIVE ways to say the word “urgent” in Chinese:

立刻 – lì kè

马上 – mǎ shàng

立即 – lì jí

即刻 – jí kè

立马 – lì mǎ

There are SEVEN ways to say “[do it] very quickly”

火速 – huǒ sù

赶紧 – gǎn jǐn

抓紧 – zhuā jǐn

即速 – jí sù

尽快 – jìn kuài

连忙 – lián máng

着即 – zhuó jí

The Chinese language also allows to break down the “quick!” into single character words and add them on to the “what” to really land the message that it has to be done VERY quickly. For example,

快速 (kuài sù) can be split as follows:

速回- sù huí

快办 – kuài bàn

Because of the lack of grammar surrounding these statements, they are far more vivid in the mind of the people doing stuff in China.

They get to the point, and quickly.

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