How to understand and use Chinese expression 顾左右而言它?

Posted by Grace Feng on March 11, 2012

How to understand and use Chinese expression 顾左右而言它?So today you screwed up at work, though you cleaned up your mess as fast as you can, your boss still wanted to know what happened. Then he booked an one on one session with you to investigate the root cause. You were determined to cover your fault since you were still in probation and the balance in your bank account just came down to zero yesterday.

Under such circumstances, what your response would likely be when your boss started to ask the dreaded question:” Who the heck caused all these troubles today?” My guess would be: you moved away your eyes from your boss’s face and started to get off topic. You might bring up things that were marginally related to the incidence yet had nothing to do with the cause. This reaction is visually described by a popular Chinese expression 顾左右而言它 (gù zuǒyòu éryán tā). Literally it means: Look to the left and right and talk about something else.

Let’s have a look at the following examples on how to use it:

měicì tándào tā de qián yīcì hūnyīn, tā zǒngshì gù zuǒyòu éryán tā.

每次谈到她的前一次婚姻, 她总是顾左右而言它.

Every time we talk about her previous marriage, she’ll change topic.

[mp3j track=”gu-zuo-you-er-yan-ta-e1.mp3″]


huàtí gāng zhuàn dào gōngsī mùqián de yùnyíng zhuàngkuàng, tā jiù kāishǐ gù zuǒyòu éryán tā.

话题刚转到公司目前的运营状况, 他就开始顾左右而言它.

When we bring up the current operations of the company, he goes off topic.

[mp3j track=”gu-zuo-you-er-yan-ta-e2.mp3″]

Is it clear to you now? If yes, it’s your turn to practice.

Please leave your question in the comment area if you have any, I’ll answer you within 24 hours.

See you next time!


Related posts:

An expression in Chinese 安于现状 defines an attitude towards life
Watching Chinese interview is another way to practice your Chinese listening and speaking skills
Consoling oneself with false hope - Chinese idiom 望梅止渴


Category: Chinese idioms

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