Let Alone… Essential Chinese Vocabulary

Here’s an extremely useful, yet extremely easy saying to understand. This is perfect for when you want to emphasise that something is impossible by comparing it to something that is easier, yet equally impossible. It is exactly the same as the English saying ‘let alone…’.

更別說(更别说)

Pinyin: gèng bié shuō
English: Let alone; much less; don’t even mention; forget about…

I can't move, let alone play ball!

Just like the English ‘let alone…’ this construct works by first stating a lesser, relatively easy example, and then stating the greater, more difficult, example. Take this easy example for starters:

He can’t even ride a bicycle, let alone a motorbike.

In this example someone may have asked “can Bill ride a motorbike?”. In order to emphasise that there is no chance Bill can ride a motorcycle we compare this example to something else that Bill can’t do, but that is comparatively easier, yet still related. Okay, enough English, you wanted to learn the Chinese, right? Well it works exactly the same, here’s the Chinese version of the above sentence:

他連腳踏車都不會騎,更別說機車。(他连脚踏车都不会骑,更别说机车。)
tā lián jiǎotàchē dōu bú huì qí, gèngbiéshuō jīchē.

Easy enough. So let’s have a look at a more complicated example, care of BBC News:

Traditional
很難預見任何幾個國家能夠接近、更別說超過這樣水平的軍費開支、來抗衡美國的軍事實力了。
Simplified
很难预见任何几个国家能够接近、更别说超过这样水平的军费开支、来抗衡美国的军事实力了。
Pinyin
hěn nán yùjiàn rènhé jǐge guójiā nénggòu jiējìn, gèngbiéshuō chāoguò zhèyàng shuǐpíng de jūnfèikāizhī, lái kànghéng měiguó de jūnshì shílì le.
English
It’s difficult to foresee which countries could come close to, let alone surpass, the level of military expenditure required to contend with the United State’s military strength.

Got a better example? Post it below in the comments. Or let us know about other useful Chinese sayings and vocabulary!

  • hanmeng

    I prefer 何况 hékuàng.

  • york2275

    Some synonyms:

    更別說、更不用說、還用說、還需要說、何況是

    Generally, we use 更別說、更不用說 in either affirmative sentences or negative sentences.

    還用說、還需要說 in question sentences.

    何況是 can be used in all of the sentences above.

  • Is there a difference with 更不用说?

    Thanks for the nice post Dave!

    • Hi Alan, I took too long to approve the above comments for this post so it looks like York2275 also answered this question 🙂
      Dave