一点儿 (yī diǎnr) and 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr)

How to say “a little bit” in Chinese?

There are actually two ways to say it. One is 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr), and the other 一点儿 (yī diǎnr). They are used differently.

A common mistake made by Chinese language learners is to use 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) in the following sentences:

  • I am a little bit busy.

我一点儿忙。(wǒ yī diǎnr máng.)

  • I am a little bit hungry.

我一点儿饿。(wǒ yī diǎnr è.)

Instead, the correct way of saying is to use 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr):

  • I am a little bit busy.

我有一点儿忙。(wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr máng.)

  • I am a little bitty hungry.

我有一点儿饿。wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr è.

In Chinese, both 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) and 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr) have the meaning of “small quantity” or “a little bit”, but their usages are quite different.

有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr) as a degree indicator

有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr) is a degree indicator. It is on the same level and has the same function as 非常 (fēi cháng).

For example:

  • I am very busy.

我非常忙。(wǒ fēicháng máng.)

  • I am a little bit busy.

我有一点儿忙。(wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr máng.)

一点儿 (yī diǎnr) for quantifying something

Use 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) to quantify something. It is on the same level and has the same function as 很多 (hěn duō) or 很少 (hěn shǎo).

For example:

  • I drank lots of beer.

我喝了很多啤酒。(wǒ hē le hěn duō pí jiǔ.)

  • I drank a little bit of beer.

我喝了一点儿啤酒。(wǒ hē le yī diǎnr pí jiǔ.)

When it becomes confusing

The confusion usually comes in when there is (yǒu) in the sentence. 

For example:

  • 我有一点儿经验。(wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr jīng yàn.)
  • 这个工作有一点儿希望。zhè ge gōng zuò yǒu yī diǎnr xī wàng.

Both of the sentences have 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr). But it can not be replaced by other degree indicators, such as 非常 (fēi cháng).

These two sentences mean:

  • I have a little bit of experience.
  • There is a little bit of hope in this job.

Identify the structure helps clear out the confusion.

Other usages of 一点儿 (yī diǎnr)

一点儿 (yī diǎnr) can be used after a descriptive word to quantify that word. But 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr) can not.

For example:

  • 你说慢一点儿。(nǐ shuō màn yī diǎnr.)

You speak slower.

  • 你来早一点儿。(nǐ lái zǎo yī diǎnr.)

You come earlier.

The “descriptive word + 一点儿 yī diǎnr) can be placed either after or before the action without altering the meaning. 

The previous sentences can be rewritten as the following:

  • 你慢一点儿说。(nǐ màn yī diǎnr shuō.)
  • 你早一点儿来。(nǐ zǎo yī diǎnr lái.)

In addition, 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) can be part of sentence structures, such as “一点儿 (yī diǎnr) ... (dōu) ...” and “一点儿 (yī diǎnr) ... (yě) ...”. But But 有一点儿 (yǒu yī diǎnr) can not.

Regional differences

Sometimes, either (yī) or (r) or both can be omitted due to regional or personal preferences.

The previous sentences can be rewritten as the following:

  • Omitting both

你说慢点。(nǐ shuō màn diǎn.)

  • Omitting (yī)

我有点儿忙。(wǒ yǒu diǎnr máng.)

  • Omitting (r)

你说慢一点。(nǐ shuō màn yī diǎn.)

Practice makes Perfect

Translate the following sentences into Chinese:

  1. I have a bit of time.
  2. Run faster.
  3. I am a bit tired.
Answers:
  1. 我有一点时间。(wǒ yǒu yī diǎn shí jiān.)
  2. 跑快点儿。(pǎo kuài diǎnr.)
  3. 我有一点累。(wǒ yǒu yī diǎn lèi.)

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