Never enough beautiful people at work - how to remember 差 chà - "to lack"

Today’s entry is based around the character chà which has quite a few meanings (of course) but basically means ‘to lack, short of, differ from’.


One example is used with telling time. 


You can say 3 minutes until 8:00 - 差三分八点 – sān fēn bā diăn, which is a terrible time to go to work.  Another useful example is差不多 – chà bù duō – which means ‘almost, nearly the same’.


Now let’s break down the elements of chà.  The bottom right of the character looks like gōng, which is work or worker and the top portion reminds me of 美 mĕi which means beautiful.


gōng is often paired with工作 gōng zuò to describe the activity of work.  The character gōng is fairly easy to remember since it looks like an I – “I can’t believe I have to work today”.


美 mĕi is often paired with 美国Mĕi guóAmerica, literally beautiful country, (aww how sweet of you) or 美女 mĕi nǚ beautiful woman – (looks like somebody wants our phone number). 

Of course it’s completely natural at this point to feel compelled to listen to American Woman.

Lenny Kravitz

If you’re learning English, here’s a version with text-lyrics.


Now that you have both of those, here’s how to remember the character  chà. 


At work ( gōng) there are never enough beautiful (美 mĕi) people around.  Another way to express that - work is lacking ( chà) beautiful people. 

工 + 美 = 差.


And because we were talking about work and beautiful, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a link to Loveboy’s Working for the Weekend. Enjoy!


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Comment by Júlia Baló on August 29, 2011 at 2:18pm

Thank you Brandon :)

Comment by name on April 1, 2011 at 7:15am

haha clever :-)

差不多 is a really common and useful phrase. It works a lot like "pretty much" in English.

差 also has alternate pronunciations, as in 出差 (chūchāi)“to go away on business." I remember learning that one my first year in college. Hopefully I'll be able to use it more frequently once I graduate and get a job!

Comment by Brandon on February 2, 2011 at 11:22am
Thanks Martha! Please feel free to share with your students anything you like.  You can also encourage them to join the site & post content of their own.
Comment by Martha on February 1, 2011 at 2:34am

Funny ^^

I'm surprised by your creative ideas.I would like to print it out to my students.

By the way , 差 originally is from something hanging down and the left side (左 zuǒ )

In the old time, people think the RIGHT side is correct , and the LEFT side is wrong. That's why 差 has negative meaning.

美 originally is from 羊 yáng ( lamb) and 大 dà (big) . In the old time, people think 羊 is very delicious meat , and if you can have a 大羊, wow , then it will be a very wonderful thing.

差 also has many different pronunciaitons,different sounds has different meaning.Take a look ^^


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