Expressing "can't do without" with "shaobuliao"
In the phrase 少不了 (shǎobuliǎo), the word 少 represents "being without." So 少不了 means "can't be without" or "can't do without." It is quite colloquial in usage.
Subj. + 少不了 + Noun / Verb Phrase
- 每年 春节，少不了 饺子 和 春晚 。Every Chinese New Year, it's gotta be dumplings and the Spring Festival Gala.
- 如果 回家 晚 了，少不了 一 顿 骂。If I get home late, there's no getting out of getting yelled at.
- 过 生日 少不了 吃 生日 蛋糕 。On someone's birthday we can't not eat birthday cake.
- 学 中文 少不了 学 拼音 和 汉字 。Studying Chinese always involves studying pinyin and Chinese characters.
- 回家 过年 少不了 带 点 礼物 给 家人 。When you return home for Chinese New Year, you can't fail to bring back some presents for your family.
- 大家 都 是 邻居 ，以后 少不了 麻烦 您 。We're all neighbors, so we'll definitely have to trouble you at some point.
- 他 负责 联系 客户 ，所以 少不了 请 客户 吃饭 。He is responsible for contacting clients, so he invariably has to treat them to dinner.
Pointing to a Cause with 少不了
Sometimes the two things that 少不了 connects can be events, saying "It's like A because B happened." This construction is often based on observations or experiences that the speaker has had, so that they can know (or assume) what situations relate to each other. It is often used together with 是.
Situation / Result ，少不了 + 是 + Reason
Note, however, that in this construction, the reason follows 少不了.
- 看 他 的 样子，少不了 是 跟 女 朋友 吵架 了。Look at him. He must have argued with his girlfriend.
- 这么 闷热 ，少不了 是 要 下 暴雨 。It's so stuffy. It must be about to storm.
- 八点 多 了 还 没 回 来，少不了 是 在 加班 。It's past 8 o'clock he still hasn't come back. He must be working overtime.
Sources and Further Reading