Doing something less with "shao"
The word 少 (shǎo) can mean "few," but when placed before a verb, it takes on the meaning of "less" as in "to do less (of something)." It is often heard when scolding or giving advice (like when parents talk to children). What's not intuitive to learners is that the word 少 should come before the verb.
Just as you can use 多 to talk about doing something more, you can use 少 to talk about doing something less.
少 + Verb
Note that in English, we don't use the word "less" very much. For example, rather than saying "drink less water," we might say "don't drink so much water." In Chinese, though, using 少 is quite natural and common. Avoiding the negative command (telling someone not to do something) is also a subtle way of sounding less bossy and annoying in Chinese.
- 请 少 放 点 盐 。Use less salt, please.
- 少 吃 垃圾 食品 。Eat less junk food.
- 少 买 点 ，吃 不 完 会 坏 的 。Don't buy too much. It will go bad if we can't finish eating it all.
- 你 能 不 能 少 抽 点 烟 ？Can you smoke less?
- 快 期中 考试 了 ，少 玩 点 游戏 吧 。The mid-term exams are coming up. Go easy on the video games.
- 少 喝 点 ，明天 还要 上班 呢 。Don't drink so much. You need go to work tomorrow.
- 少 看 点 电视 ，多 看书 。Watch less TV. Read more books.
- 少 吃 点 肉 ，多 吃 点 蔬菜 。Eat less meat and eat more vegetables.
These set phrases are worth special note, because although they follow the grammar pattern, they might not make sense to you without a little extra explanation, just like the meaning of "come on" might not make sense at first to someone learning English.
- 少 来 ！Lit. "come less"Come on!
- 少 说 废话 ！Lit. "speak less nonsense talk"Quit your babbling!
- 少 管 闲事 。Lit. "get involved less in others' affairs"Stay out of other people's business.