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Five Shades of Happiness

By Guo Wen

高兴 gāoxìng, 开心 kāixīn,快乐 kuàilè,愉快 yúkuài and 幸福 xìngfú are synonyms, and they all mean something like “being happy, delightful, joyful” in Chinese, but there are still many nuances between them.

Similarly, when you use “joyful, happy, delightful, pleasant, content, and fortunate” in English, they mean almost the same thing. However, you would say “Nice to meet you!” rather than “Content to meet you!” when you meet a friend for the first time. So, in this post, we are going to pick out five shades of “happiness” in Chinese.

Nice to meet you1) 高兴 gāoxìng means glad, an instant feeling and temporary state of mind. For example,

• 今天天气很好, 我很高兴. Jīntiān tiānqì hěn hǎo, wǒ hěn gāoxìng.

The weather is pretty nice today. I am very happy. (It seems 高兴 has a connotation of impermanence. You could be happy right now but unhappy later on. It is the most common, most general form of “happiness”.)

• 很高兴认识你。Hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ. Nice to meet you. (This is a set phrase.)

2) 开心 kāixīn is also less formal and you can use 开心 and 高兴 interchangeably, but it is not as frequently used as 高兴. For example:

• 她笑得很开心。Tā xiào dé hěn kāixīn. She smiles happily.

• 今天是他的生日,他和他的朋友度过了非常开心的一天。Jīntiān shì tā de shēngrì, tā hé tā de péngyǒu dùguòle fēicháng kāixīn de yītiān. Today is his birthday. He and his friends spent a very happy day.

• 很开心认识你。 Hěn kāixīn rènshí nǐ. (WRONG!!! It better to use 高兴 in this case because 高兴 is more formal. It is more appropriate to use 很高兴认识你 when you meet someone for the first time.)

Happy Birthday3) 快乐 kuàilè means happy too but it is almost never used in conversation or oral expression. Instead, it is usually used for festival greetings. For example,

• 祝你生日快乐! Zhù nǐ shēngrì kuàilè! Happy birthday to you!
• 新年快乐!Xīnnián kuàilè! Happy New Year!
• 见到你我很快乐。Jiàn dào nǐ wǒ hěn kuàilè. (This sentence is WRONG! It should be 高兴 in this case. 快乐 is often used in several set phrases, like wishing somebody a happy festival, birthday, etc.)

Have a nice weekend4) 愉快 yúkuài means pleasant, but it is not at a point of happiness. The pleasant feeling might last longer for a certain time. In addition, it is quite low-key and not much of the expression is shown on the outside or physically. For example:

• 祝你周末愉快!Zhù nǐ zhōumò yúkuài! Have a pleasant weekend! (This is a set phrase for the weekend.)
• 祝您旅途愉快。Zhù nín lǚtú yúkuài. Have a nice trip.
• 祝您入住愉快。Zhù nín rùzhù yúkuài. Have a pleasant stay. (A trip or stay is not an instant action. These experiences last for certain period of time, so it’s better to use 愉快 in these kinds of situations.)

Blessed5) 幸福 xìngfú refers to feeling fortunate and blessed; a long-lasting contentment in one’s life, family, or relationship. For example:

• 他工作稳定,家庭和睦,十分幸福。Tā gōngzuò wěndìng, jiātíng hémù, shífēn xìngfú.
He has a stable job and a harmonious family life and feels very blessed.
• 他的家人很爱他,他很幸福。Tā de jiārén hěn ài tā, tā hěn xìngfú. His family loves him a lot, and he feels fortunate.
• 他过着幸福的生活。Tāguòzhe xìngfú de shēnghuó. He leads a happy life.

Try to correct the mistakes in the following sentences:

1) 见到你很快乐。Nice to meet you.
2) 他的一家生活十分高兴。His family lives happily.
3) 祝你周末幸福! Have a pleasant weekend!
4) 孩子们玩儿得真愉快。The kids are playing extremely happily.
5) 祝您春节开心!Happy Spring Festival!