Hokkien: How Do You Say “Tired”

by | Mar 14, 2019 | Hokkien, Hokkien - How Do You Say

Listen to Podcast | Hokkien: How Do You Say “Tired”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – or search for on Spotify.

New Words

EnglishHokkienOur Romanization
Until / ReachGao
I’m very tired from work我做工做到真善(倦)Wa zoh gang zoh gao jin sian
I am going to sleep我爱去睏了Wa ai ki koon liao

Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say “Tired”

Hi everyone and welcome back to our Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast. Last week, we learnt about how to join an ongoing conversation. This week, we will learn how to excuse yourself – either from an event or a conversation – in Hokkien.

If you were invited to an event that you don’t want to join due to exhaustion from a long day at work, you can say – 我做工做到真善(倦), 我爱去睏.

In the first part of the phrase, the word – 倦 – means “tired” and the word – 真 – as we have learnt in our previous podcast, means “very”. As such, 我做工做到真倦 means “I was at work and worked until very tired”. This is followed by 我爱去睏了 which means “I am going to sleep”.

As a little trivia, the word “Sian” originated from Hokkien and meant “tired” initially. However, with common usage over time, its meaning in Singapore has expanded to encompass being bored, a sense of helplessness and is often regarded as an expression of lament. It is no wonder that “Sian”, is now regarded as part of the Singlish vocabulary!

Now, if you are already in the middle of a conversation and you would like to express that you have to leave, another handy phrase would be – 我有工爱做, 我先走了. Wait… did you realise that this phrase contains words that we have all learnt in our previous podcasts? I encourage you to pause the audio now and see if you understand what this phrase expresses. I’ll repeat – 我有工爱做, 我先走了. What does it mean?

So did you get it right? The meaning of this phrase is “I have work to do, I will make a move first“.

Once again, the 2 phrases today are:

我做工做到真善(倦), 我爱去睏了; and

我有工爱做, 我先走了.

Well, I hope our Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast today is not sian for you! Personally, I think these phrases are very useful. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Eugene from and see you at our next podcast.

Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!

Our Philosophy for Learning Hokkien in Singapore

The pronunciation of Hokkien words varies from one region to another. For example, Penang Hokkien sounds different from Taiwanese Hokkien. At, we want to make learning Hokkien fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, we think it is important to listen to how Singaporeans speak Hokkien. To do that, we have an ongoing process of collecting audio recordings from at least 100 Hokkien-speaking seniors in Singapore and thereafter based our audio pronunciation on the most commonly-heard version.

In similar nature, rather than trying to figure out which Hokkien romanization system to use (e.g. Pe̍h-ōe-jī or Taiwan Romanization System), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Hokkien words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the formal romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “chia̍h” in Hokkien. However, in our “Have You Eaten” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “jiak”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “chiah”, “jia”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear.


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