What is actually being afraid of in Chinese expression 不怕一万,只怕万一?

Posted by Grace Feng on May 9, 2013

What is actually being afraid of in Chinese expression 不怕一万,只怕万一?

Chinese like to use this expression 不怕一万,只怕万一 bùpà yī wàn, zhǐpà wànyī to advise others that it is always wise to play safe.

However, literally speaking, all that mentioned in this expression are merely numbers: 一万 yī wàn and 万一 wànyī.  一万 yī wàn means ten thousands, but 万一 wànyī doesn’t mean “ten thousand ones”, it actually means “in case”!

Based on the word meaning of this expression, you can comprehend it this way :


We’re not afraid of ten thousands times it turns out OK, we’re only cautious about the one out of ten thousands times that it turns bad.

As a matter of fact,  不怕一万,只怕万一 bùpà yī wàn, zhǐpà wànyī can be simply translated as “Just in case.” as well.


This is a frequently used expression that you really should learn. Now let’s see how we can use it in our everyday conversations – two examples:


bǎshǒu jī dài shàng, bùpà yī wàn, zhǐpà wànyī。


Bring your cell phone with you, just in case.


bùguǎn shíjiān yǒu duō jǐn, dōu yào àn guīchéng cāozuò, bùpà yī wàn, zhǐpà wànyī ma。


No matter how tight the time is, we have to operarate by the procedure in order to prevent accident from happening.


Are you clear now? Can you memorize it and use it in your own conversations from now on?

If you know any other Chinese expressions that can be used as “Just in case.”, feel free to share, thanks!


Related posts:

Lesson 9 How to use adjectives in Chinese (2)
How do Chinese talk about money - Chinese slang and vocabulary about "money" of all kinds
Fun Chinese characters - stack them up in multi-dimensional thinking!


Category: Chinese vocabulary

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5 Responses to “What is actually being afraid of in Chinese expression 不怕一万,只怕万一?”

  1. nothing

    Matt Sikora:

    05-10-2013 1:29 am

    That’s a wonderful expression and brand new to me. Thanks!


    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      05-10-2013 9:57 pm

      You’re welcome Matt, glad to help. :-)


  2. nothing

    Annie Ling:

    02-26-2016 12:12 pm

    I love Chiense also…


  3. nothing

    Annie Ling:

    02-26-2016 12:15 pm

    Hello,everyone.I am Annie.I love Chinese…


    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      02-26-2016 2:08 pm

      Welcome Annie! 欢迎你来JLC做客。 :-)



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