HSK Words: 偶然 (ǒu rán) VS 偶尔 (ǒu ěr)

Monday, December 25, 2023

In Chinese language learning, 偶然 (ǒu rán) and 偶尔 (ǒu ěr) are two words that  are related to the frequency of occurrence, their usage differs slightly. In this article, we will distinguish between these two words by analyzing their meanings and usage.

偶然 (ǒu rán) typically refers to a happening that is unexpected and not planned. It emphasizes the random or unexpected nature of the event or situation.


  1. By chance, I ran into an old friend.
    ǒu rán de yī cì jī huì , wǒ yù dào le yí gè lǎo péng yǒu。
  2. I stumbled upon this treasure in my old neighborhood.
    wǒ zài lǎo jiā ǒu rán fā xiàn le zhè gè bǎo zàng。
  3. He stumbled upon a secret message.
    tā ǒu rán tīng dào le yí gè mì mì xiāo xī。

偶尔 (ǒu ěr) typically refers to a happening that occurs irregularly or infrequently. It emphasizes the infrequency or irregularity of the event or situation.


  1. I go to the coffee shop once in a while.
    wǒ ǒu ěr huì qù kāi fēn diàn zuò zuò。
  2. He occasionally forgets to turn off the lights.
    tā ǒu ěr huì wàng jì guān dēng。
  3. I occasionally think about when I was a kid.
    wǒ ǒu ěr huì xiǎng qǐ xiǎo shí hòu de shì qíng。

By understanding the differences in meaning and usage, we can better distinguish between these two similar HSK words and use them appropriately in our Chinese language communication.

Quiz: Please consider whether to use 偶然 (ǒu rán) or 偶尔 (ǒu ěr) in the following sentences.

  1. 多数演员都会____念错台词。
    duō shù yǎn yuán dōu huì ____ niàn cuò tái cí 。
  2. 我们下班后____聚会。
    wǒ men xià bān hòu ____ jù huì 。
  3. 他们的相遇纯属____。
    tā men de xiāng yù chún shǔ ____ 。


  1. 偶尔 (ǒu ěr)
  2. 偶尔 (ǒu ěr)
  3. 偶然 (ǒu rán

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