“Wind” and “Shadow” that you shouldn’t chase – Chinese idiom 捕风捉影

Some Chinese idioms are easier to be learned by switching the character order and turning them into normal word order first.

For example, idiom 捕风捉影 bǔfēngzhuōyǐng is easier to be learned by re-order the “verb + noun + verb + noun” structure into “verb + verb + noun + noun”. Like this: 捕捉风影 bǔfēngzhuōyǐng:


    捕捉 bǔzhuō (chase and catch) + 风 fēng (wind) 影 yǐng (shadow)


In this idiom, ”chase and catch the wind and shadow” means to speak or act on hearsay evidence or make groundless accusations. Both “wind” and “shadow” are things that people can’t catch or hold as solid objects. So they were used as analogies for rumors, gossips or unreliable findings or observation. The judgement you made that based on unreliable things is very likely to be wrong.

Do you understand what 捕捉风影 bǔzhuōfēngyǐng means now?

Following that, we can break the two-character verb 捕捉 bǔzhuō into two single-character verbs, and do the same thing to 风影 fēngyǐng. Re-order them into 捕风捉影 bǔfēngzhuōyǐng since it rhymes better that way. Remember, ancient Chinese loves rhymes and were very picky on how an idiom sound in its tones. 🙂 So here you go:  捕风捉影 bǔfēngzhuōyǐng. You should have seen this kind of pattern in lots of Chinese idioms.

Let’s re-enforce your memory by practicing the newly learned Chinese idiom in the following two examples:

    tā shuō dehuà shì bǔzhuō fēng yǐng, bùnéng xìn de.

    她说的话是捕风捉影, 不能信的.

    What she said came out of thin air, not trustworthy.


    nǐmen rènwéi tā gàn le nà jiàn shì? zhè chúncuì shì bǔzhuō fēng yǐng.

    你们认为他干了那件事? 这纯粹是捕风捉影.

    You think he did it? It’s a groundless accusation.


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