Most of the time, learning Chinese is a fun and rewarding experience.
But sometimes you'd run into some words and think, "Whyyyy! Why do they look similar, but mean completely different things?!"
In today's video, we look at 买 (mǎi) and 卖 (mài) - the two characters that look and sound very similar, but have the opposite meanings.
The verb 买 (mǎi), 3rd tone, means "to buy".
You can use it to refer to buying, purchasing, and getting things.
Wǒ xiǎng mǎi yī jiàn yī fu
I want to buy a piece of clothing.
Nǐ zuó tiān mǎi le shén me?
What did you buy yesterday?
Wǒ gěi péng you mǎi le yī gè lǐ wù
I got my friend a gift.
Wǒ gěi yé ye nǎi nai mǎi le yī xiē shuǐ guǒ
I got some fruit for my grandparents.
The verb 卖 (mài), 4th tone, means "to sell".
It's often used by street vendors, and you can also use it to ask the classic question about the price, "How much is/are...?", in a slightly different way:
Qǐng wèn píng guǒ zěn me mài?
How much are the apples?
Bào qiàn, zhè ge bù mài
Sorry, this is not for sale.
Bù hǎo yì si, fān qié bā yuán yī jīn, shǎo le bù mài
Sorry, the tomatoes are 8 yuan per jin, and I can't sell them at a lower price.
Mǎ lù biānr yǒu xǔ duō jiào mài de xiǎo fàn
There are a lot of street traders peddling their goods along the road.
买卖 mǎi mai
You can combine the two verbs as well!
In this case, 买卖 (mǎi mai) will become a noun that means "trade", or simply "buying and selling".
zuò mǎi mai
to do trade; to be a merchant
Wǒ de péng you shì zuò mǎi mai de
My friend is in the trading business.
Take It Further
1. 别卖关子了 (Bié mài guān zi le)
Have you ever heard this phrase? What does it mean and what's being sold there... 关子 (guān zi)?
In ancient China, 关子 (guān zi) meant "bills". But today, the phrase 卖关子 means "to keep someone in suspense".
Imagine telling your friends a story, and then stopping right before the most important twist - to keep them guessing how that story ends. They would tell you:
Qiú nǐ bié mài guān zi le, kuài gào su wǒ gù shi de jié guǒ ba!
Stop holding us in suspense, tell me how that story ended!
2. 剁手 (duò shǒu)
Recently, many people have been using the phrase 剁手 (duò shǒu) instead of the verb "to buy", 买 (mǎi). The verb phrase 剁手 (duò shǒu) literally means "to cut one's hands", and it's often used to talk about the shopping addiction.
Since everyone buys things online, you will see 剁手 (duò shǒu) online a lot - on Taobao and other shopping platforms - especially during the 11.11 Shopping Festival.