Negative adjectives with "-si le"
In English, you might use the expression "you scared me to death!" In Chinese, 死了 (sǐ le) is used similarly to intensify an adjective with an unpleasant connotation.
The "Subject" part below is actually optional, you can still make your over-the-top exclamations without it.
Adj. + 死了
This structure is technically a kind of degree complement.
- 我 饿 死了。Literally, "hungry to death"I'm starving!
- 今天 累 死了。Literally, "tired to death"Today was so exhausting!
- 热 死了！Literally, "hot to death"It's ridiculously hot!
- 这 几 天 忙 死了。Literally, "busy to death"It's been so terribly busy these days!
- 这 件 衣服 丑 死了。Literally, "ugly to death"This clothing is totally hideous!
- 你 的 房间 脏 死了。Literally, "dirty to death"Your room is absolutely filthy!
- 吵 死了！Literally, "noisy to death"It's so terribly noisy!
- 这里 的 东西 贵 死了。Literally, "expensive to death"The things here are criminally expensive!
- 我们 都 急 死了。Literally, "anxious to death"We are all so terribly anxious!
- 这个 孩子 烦 死了。Literally, "annoying to death"This kid is so freaking annoying!
None of these sentences actually refers to someone dying. Instead the word 死了 (sǐ le) and the structure is simply used to intensify an adjective. Notice how these are awkward to translate into English; the translations above took a number of different angles to create the same impact as -死了 (sǐ le) does in Chinese. You might say that -死了 (sǐ le) is much more versatile in Chinese than the English expression "to death."
For Positive Connotations
Traditionally, -死了 (sǐ le) is only for adjectives with negative connotations, while positive connotations use a similar degree complement, 极了 (jí le). In recent years, however, it's become quite popular to also use -死了 (sǐ le) with positive adjectives:
- 哇，可爱 死了 ！Literally, "cute to death"OMG, adorbs!
- 漂亮 死了 ！Literally, "pretty to death"Drop-dead gorgeous!
- 这 个 蛋糕 好吃 死了 。Literally, "delicious to death"This cake is to die for!
Sources and further reading
- New Practical Chinese Reader 4 (新实用汉语课本4) (pp. 104) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 139) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 105) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- Yufa! (pp. 106) [ →buy]