Have you heard this love story before?
Two strangers work and live near each other. They’re perfect for each other, but as fate has it, they keep barely missing each other until one moment where they magically meet each other and fall in love.
It turns out there is a chengyu that’s perfect for this situation: 擦肩而过 (cā jiān ér guò).
擦肩而过 (cā jiān ér guò) literally means “to brush shoulders and pass by,” and generally it means to almost come into close contact with someone or something, but then missing it. 擦肩而过 (cā jiān ér guò) can be used for very specific, tangible things (eg. asteroid almost hitting the earth) as well as very abstract things (love and death).
A breakdown of the characters in 擦肩而过 (cā jiān ér guò):
擦 (cā): to brush, rub up against
肩 (jiān): shoulder (as in 肩膀 – jiānbǎng)
而 (ér): conjunction meaning “but” here
过 (guò): to pass by (as in 过去 – guòqù)
Observing 擦肩而过 (cā jiān ér guò) in the wild reveals 2 main usages.
Usage 1) 和 / 与 + Noun + 擦肩而过
Example 1 A)
“AMY shì yígè kěwàng zhuāzhù àiqíng de nǚhái, què lǚlǚ hé zhēn’ài cā jiān ér ɡuò “
“AMY is a girl who longs to grasp love, but often barely misses true love”
Example 1 B)
“qiáobùsī gǎndào rúshìzhòngfù, yīnwèi zìjǐ céngjīng hé sǐshén cā jiān ér ɡuò “
“Jobs felt such a heavy burden because he had previously brushed with death (literally, the “Grim Reaper”) several times”
Example 1 C)
“xǔduō rén zài chūshēng yīshǐ jiù kěnéng yǔ xìngfú cā jiān ér ɡuò le”
“many people, from the beginning at birth, may have barely missed happiness”
Example 1 D)
“…xiǎo xíngxīng 8 rì yǔ dìqiú cā jiān ér ɡuò “
“…on the 8th, a small planet almost hit the Earth”
Example 1 E)
“zài zhèlǐ, hé biérén cā jiān ér ɡuò de shíhou, jíshǐ shì sùbùxiāngshí de mòshēng rén, dàjiā yě huì hùxiāng dǎzhāohu “
“Here, whenever anyone brushes shoulders with someone, even if it’s a complete stranger, everyone will say “hi” to one another”
Usage 2) 擦肩而过 + 的 + Noun
Example 2 A)
“zhōuwéi bùfá yǒu nǚpéngyǒu xǐhuan lìshǔ wǎngshì, zhuīyì céng cā jiān ér ɡuò de nánrén “
“Around (me) there is not a shortage of girlfriends who like to recount their past experiences, and to remember men whom they had barely missed in the past”
Example 2 B)
“zài fánmáng de xiàndài dūshì shēnghuó zhōng, búyào ràng cā jiān ér ɡuò de yǒuyì chéngwéi yíhàn “
“In busy, modern city life, don’t let a barely missed friendship become a regret”
Questions? Comments? Have your own 擦肩而过的经历 (experience) to share? Other chengyu on love or dating you’d like us to cover? Let us know!