When I learned to drive years ago, I remember my Singaporean driving instructor frantically exhorting me to “加油, 加油!” (jia you, jia you) From this, I gathered it meant "to step on the gas" or "go faster".

Now, as an English teacher of students from China, whenever I want to encourage / 鼓励 (gu li) them in their studies, I tell them to 加油。This is how I hear the phrase being used nowadays. How else can it be used? Once, when the students were late for a talk, and I saw them strolling slowly towards the auditorium, I shouted “加油” down the corridor. As soon as it left my lips I thought it sounded really weird. I was trying to say "hurry up" - "快点,快点!” (kwai Dian, Kwai dian!). So - was the use of 加油 in this context completely wrong? In what other contexts and with what other meanings is this expression used?

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I am a Chinese guy, let me help u .

Literally 加油 means refuel or fill the gas , but it also used to encourage sb to do sth.

refuel is the origin meaning of 加油,  if your car is about to run out of gas , you can say 我的车子快没油了,我必须去加油了。

If you want to encourage sb to do sth , you also can use the phrase 加油,give u an example:

如果你的朋友正在参加赛跑,他的体力已经透支了,这个时候你需要从精神上鼓励他,给他力量,你就可以对他喊:加油、加油!

加油 doesn't has the meaning of hurry up or faster , I should mention this.Because the orign meaning of 加油 is refuel or fill the gas, not step on the gas pedal . In Chinese , if we want to ask u to drive faster ,we would say 加速、提速。If  you shout at a driver, you say 加油,we chinese will never think that you want us step on the gas , we may guess you are mentioning us that we should go to the gas station .It's very important to understand what I told u .

In your case , the students were strolling  slowly towards the seats,What you want to express is not encourage them to be quicker,but wish them to be quicker. So , you said 加油 is completely wrong, even more, it's very funny in this situation.

 

By the way, I am a English learner, I have studied English for ten years in school, after graduated from college I abandoned English for eight years, now restarted to learn since 2012. I love English language, but I have never been abroad or talk with Native English-speakers in real world, sometimes I chat with English-speakers on Skype. If you like , we can make friends, exchange language, It would be my pleasure. My name on skype is bg6rrn.

Thanks for your examples, I am studying them.

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