厲害(Lìhài) = powerful?

e.g. 我覺得你很厲害 (Wǒ juéde nǐ hěn lìhài) = I think you are very powerful

Isn’t ‘great’ a better translation? I.e.: I think you are great

Before I get the wrong end of the stick, like.

[quote=“trubadour”]e.g. 我覺得你很厲害 (Wǒ juéde nǐ hěn lìhài) = I think you are very powerful

Isn’t ‘great’ a better translation? I.e.: I think you are great

Before I get the wrong end of the stick, like.[/quote]

More like I thin you are really good “at something”. The something part is often implied or explained just after saying someone is very 厲害 with a phrase starting with 因為.

I think of 厲害(lì hài) like the English word ‘bad.’ It can have both a negative and (slangy) positive meaning (George is a bad driver—he plowed into three cars just last week—but you have to admit, that’s one bad Maserati he’s got).

When someone hears my Chinese and exclaims “很厲害!” I of course assume that they’re impressed by my flawless pronunciation and perfect tones :roflmao:

hey~I’m a Taiwanese. I think 厲害 is just like what you mentioned, means “great” or “good” at something. But nowadays we use it to describe not only “some body” but also “something”. For example, you’'ll hear “那家店很厲害” 、“你的便當看起來很厲害”、“這本書很厲害”…blablabla, and in this case, we actually use 厲害 to displace all the adjectives for those “something”. for example, “你的便當看起來很厲害” simply means “your meal box seems to be very delicious.” :slight_smile:

I think the best translation is “AWESOME!”

Where it can, possibly, have a negative connotation as being super powerful and therefore, a bit dangerous/powerful…but nowadays just means badass.

I guess badass could be another translation, but awesome I think works better.

I agree - it’s almost an exact translation, used in the same way. Gile pretty much said the same thing.

I agree - it’s almost an exact translation, used in the same way. Gile pretty much said the same thing.[/quote]

Yup, just giving an exact English word.

I think badass is actually closer to the connotation. “great”, “awesome”, and “powerful” doesn’t have the same evil/sexy connotation that 厲害 has. When people compliment you with 厲害, they usually have like a grin in their mind.

Both “awesome” and “badass” are excellent translations, I think. 厲害 can have an evil/sexy connotation, but not necessarily. Usually it’s an expression of praise to someone for being good or capable at something. But in other contexts it can mean “powerful” or “fierce”, such as 早晨外面的風吹得很厲害"The wind outside blew something fierce this morning."

i think “terrific” works, in both positive and negative meaning.

I’m not a fan of “badass” because I could never imagine my girlfriend’s mom saying “That princess Zhenhuan is so badass, what with how she puts up with all the court politics and plots against her.” But she most assuredly does say that things and people are 厲害. I would go with “awesome” in most cases, although that doesn’t solve the problem I just mentioned. An alternative is “impressive,” since Chinese doesn’t have a very satisfactory way to express that.

我覺得這部電影的特效還真厲害 / I found the special effects really impressive.

Insisting on the word “powerful” sounds to me like a prescriptivist approach to translation that seeks out 1:1 equivalencies which may very well not exist. I know this sounds so obvious I shouldn’t have to say it, but we sometimes forget that Chinese and English each developed on their own (even if there is a lot of Western influence on modern Mandarin), and so there is no guarantee that there will even be a word to describe a concept from one language in the other.

I am a proponent of taking a flexible approach where you ignore the exact wording and preserve instead the effect that the sentence would give a listener. In translation studies we call this skopostheorie (yeah, it’s a long story).

For example, this phrase listed above which features a bit of hyperbole: 你的便當看起來很厲害. There are a bunch of different ways you can handle this. Some possible options:

That’s quite the lunch you’ve got there. / That’s one heck of a lunch. / Your lunch looks great. / What a lunch! / Nice lunch. / I’m impressed.

Etc.