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笑 - To laugh or smile?

Hi @YuQinCai, @Constance_Fang @Fiona and the ChinesePod team, my question is this:

Hi guys, regarding 笑 - xiào - I see this used to mean to laugh or smile, but unlike other chinese words with multiple meanings, i can’t seem to find how to tell which one it is from context:

妈妈笑了 - Mother laughed/smiled
我一见你就笑 - I laugh/smile as soon as I see you

To me, laughing and smiling are distinct enough actions that i feel I need clarification - to see someone and feel the urge to smile, is very different to feeling the urge to laugh at them!

Any help with distinguishing the two is much appreciated. Thanks!


If there’s no further discription than just 笑 it’s a general kind of 笑. It could be smile or laugh.
We can only guess depending on the situation.

If the situation isn’t clear or we want to describe more vividly we could say

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I think I understand. I guess its another interesting cultural difference, “a general kind of 笑”. There’s probably a ton of ambiguities coming from chinese to english too, that your average english speaker doesn’t even think about. thanks :slight_smile: