Comparing "renjia" and "bieren"

When referring to other people, we can use both the words 人家 (rénjia) and 别人 (biérén). But 人家 has additional grammatical uses which we will explore in this article.

Both can mean "others"

人家 and 别人 both refer to others besides the speaker and the listener. However, 人家 is more colloquial.

人家 and 别人 are interchangeable in these sentences below.

  • 我 不 在乎 人家 怎么 说 。Wǒ bù zàihu rénjia zěnme shuō.I don't care about what other people say.
  • 别人 怎么 想 我 怎么 知道 ?Biérén zěnme xiǎng wǒ zěnme zhīdào?How could I know what other people are thinking?
  • 那 是 人家 的 事 ,你 管 那么 多 干嘛 ?Nà shì rénjia de shì, nǐ guǎn nàme duō gàn ma?That's other people's business. Why get involved?

Additional Uses of 人家

For these additional uses of 人家, it would be incorrect to use 别人.

人家 as "I" or "me"

人家 can be used to refer to yourself, and it is often used this way by women, giving it a sort of girly, shy, tender feeling.

  • 因为 人家 喜欢 你 啊 。Yīnwèi rénjia xǐhuan nǐ a.Because I like you!
  • 讨厌 !老是 拿 人家 开玩笑 。Tǎoyàn! Lǎo shì ná rénjia kāiwánxiào.You are so annoying! You're always making fun of me.

人家 as "him" or "her"

人家 can also refer to someone previously referred to (in the context of the conversation or body of text) or it can refer to a certain someone that both the speaker and listener know.

  • 你 快 给 人家 道歉 。Nǐ kuài gěi rénjia dàoqiàn.Apologize to them now.
  • 你 看 人家 多 聪明 !Nǐ kàn rénjia duō cōngming!Look how smart he is!

人家 as "residents"

人家 can also refer to households. In this case, it's pronounced as "rénjiā" rather than "rénjia." This use is going to be the least common in everyday spoken Chinese.

  • 这个 小区 有 多少 人家Zhège xiǎoqū yǒu duōshao rénjiā?How many households are here in this neighborhood?
  • 村子 里 现在 只 剩 十 人家 了 。Cūnzi lǐ xiànzài zhī shèng shí rénjiā le.There are only ten households left in this village.

Sources and further reading