Let’s look at how to speak the phrase “no wonder” in Mandarin, the essential language if you’re going to travel or live in China, a country with abundant cultural quirks and surprises for its visitors. Learn how to use the two following phrases in this online Chinese learning blog and you’ll be prepared to express yourself whenever you come to understand something that was previously unclear or baffling…
As you’ll see, both words feature the character “怪 / guài”, which has a few meanings, including “strange”, “to wonder at” and “to blame”. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on the definition “to wonder at”.
难怪 / nán guài
Literally “difficult + to wonder at”, “难怪” is a fairly straightforward word and fits into a sentence just as “no wonder” does in English:
Zhè shì yījiā yǒumíng de Běijīng kǎoyā diàn? Nánguài mǎnyuán le!
‘Aaah, so this is a famous Beijing Roast Duck restaurant?? No wonder it was totally full!’
Nǐ yǒu xīn nǚpéngyǒu le? Nánguài nǐ zuìjìn nàme kāixīn!
You have a new girlfriend? No wonder you’ve been so happy recently!
Nánguài dàjiā jiābān. Jiézhǐ rìqī gǎi dào míngtiān le!
No wonder everyone is doing overtime. The deadline was changed to tomorrow!
Nánguài nǐ juéde yǒudiǎnr shānggǎn. Hái méi xíguàn zài Zhōngguó shēnghuó ba.
It’s not surprising you feel a bit emotional. You’re still not used to life in China.
怪不得/ guài bù dé
As we know, 怪 means “to wonder at”. When joined by 不得, meaning “cannot” or “may not”, we have the phrase “no wonder”. Examples:
Guàibùdé wǒ tù le. Wǒ duì hǎixiān guòmǐn.
No wonder I was sick. I’m allergic to seafood.
Guàibùdé nǐ zhème lèi – gānggāng pǎo wán le mǎlāsōng!
“怪不得你这么累 – 刚刚跑完了马拉松!”
It’s not surprising you feel tired. You just ran a marathon!
Guàibùdé hěnduō rén guònián dāi zài jiālǐ. Tài duō rén chūqù lǚyóule – nǎlǐ dōu shì rénmǎnwéihuàn!
It’s not surprising many people stay at home for Chinese New Year. Too many people are traveling – it’s chaos!
Thankfully for learners, “怪不得” and “难怪” are totally interchangeable. So there you have it: two handy options for when the strange, unfamiliar or new suddenly makes sense.