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Stepping Stones Lesson Three

Audio Immersion  |  Audio Practice  |  Vocabulary Study  |  Vocabulary Review
Reading Practice  |  Exercises  |  Stepping Stones Home

Three in the Morning, Four at Night

Study the vocabulary for one line of the story along with the English translation of that line. You may want to go back to the previous step so you can listen to the line and practice reading it aloud. When you can read the line comfortably and with full comprehension, go on to the next line.

朝 三 暮 四 Three in the Morning, Four at Night
有 一 个 道 士 There was a Daoist priest
养 了 几 只 猴 子, who took care of several monkeys. 
猴 子 每 天 要 吃 很 多 食 物。 
Everyday the monkeys wanted to eat a lot of food. 
有 一 天,
One day
道 士 对 猴 子 说:
the Daoist priest said to the monkeys: 
“以 后 每 天 早 上
“ After this, every morning
每 只 猴 子
each monkey
给 三 个 栗 子,
will get three chestnuts
晚 上 给 四 个 栗 子。
and four chestnuts every night.” 
”猴 子 听 了 很 生 气,
When the monkeys heard this they got very angry. 
于 是 道 士 说:
Therefore, the Daoist priest said: 
“那 就 每 天 早 上
“ In that case, every morning
给 四 个 栗 子,
I will give out four chestnuts
晚 上 给 三 个 栗 子。”
and three chestnuts at night.” 
猴 子 一 听
As soon as the monkeys heard
早 上 多 了 一 个 栗 子
that they would get one more chestnut in the morning
就 高 兴 了。
they were happy.


New Vocabulary

Click on any character to see how it is written. Click on any character's pinyin to hear how it is pronounced.

While learning to write the characters is not essential to learning to read them, it helps a lot and is highly recommended. Practice writing each yourself 5-10 times, being careful to follow the stroke order shown in the animation.

For more help learning to write the characters for this lesson, try out our Character Trainer App for iPhone and Android.

lit. “three in the morning, four at night”; to play fast and loose
to have, there is
a/an, one (of something)
Daoist priest
raise, take care of
[measure word for certain animals]
every, each
a lot, very many
many, much, more
one day…        
to, towards; correct
evening, night
hear, listen
angry, get angry
is, are, to be     
in that case…

Existing Vocabulary

Vocabulary Notes

成语 (chéng yǔ)

成语 are phrases (almost always four characters long) that usually stem either from an old, traditional Chinese story or some type of traditional saying.  They are often referred to as “idioms” or “proverbs” in English, however, 成语 are not limited to this type of usage.  成语 usually have a literal meaning that leads to the understanding of a more figurative meaning.  In China, it is the general opinion that usage of成语 indicates great literary skill and knowledge.  The 成语 used in this lesson is 朝三暮四 and is based on the story that serves as this lesson’s text.  The literal meaning of 朝三暮四 is “three in the morning, four at night.”  Originally, the figurative meaning of this 成语 referred to actions similar to that of the Daoist priest in this story, i.e. tricking those of lower intelligence for fun.  However, over the years the phrase has come to mean “to play fast and loose.” [Additional Reading]

Using the Word 多

The word 多 is mainly used as the adverb meaning “many” or “a lot.”  An example of this in the text above is “很多食物,” meaning “a lot of food.”  However, 多 can also be used in a comparative sense to mean “more” or “[a certain number] more.”  In the latter case the word order is opposite from the English word order in that the word 多 precedes the number.  For example, in the text above, ““多 了一个栗子” means “one more chestnut.”  The same usage applies to 少 (shǎo), the antonym of 多. [Additional Reading]

Once you've studied the vocabulary and can read each line of the story with comprehension, you are ready to go on to the next step.