Ep03: Just a little sugar | Guá beh bî thn̂g 我欲微糖

Bite-size Taiwanese - Cover Art - Elementary - 2500x2500
Bite-size Taiwanese | Elementary
Ep03: Just a little sugar | Guá beh bî thn̂g 我欲微糖


In this episode, we learned how to order drinks and about three functions of the verb “ū” (to have, to exist). (These show notes use tables and rich formatting. Please visit the episode webpage for an optimal viewing experience.)

Lán lâi-khì bé ím-liāu, hó--bô? Let’s go buy some drinks, what do you think?
ím-liāu drink, beverage
Hū-kīn ū tsi̍t king ím-liāu-tiàm. There’s a drink shop nearby.
hū-kīn nearby
Guá ū king-kuè. I walked/passed by it.
king-kuè to pass by/through
Guá ū khuànn-tio̍h tsi̍t king sin khui--ê. I’ve seen one newly opened.
sin new
khui to open; open
Lí kám bô tsia̍h tsá-tǹg? Didn’t you eat breakfast?
Ū--lah, guá ū tsia̍h. Well, yeah, I did (eat).
In kám ū ka-pi? Do they have coffee?
In ū ka-pi--bô? Do they have coffee?
In ū ka-pi kah ling-tê. They have coffee and milk tea.
oo ka-pi black coffee
hún-înn-ling- boba milk tea

*Syllables that require tone changes are greyed out.


Boba tea is a popular tea-based drink invented in Taiwan in the 1980s. When ordering at a boba tea shop, you will be typically asked:

Size Hot / Cold The sugar level “tinn-tōo The amount of ice “ping-liōng
1) Tuā pue: large 2) Tiong pue: medium 3) pue: small 1) Sio--ê: hot 2) Ping--ê: ice cold 1) Tsìng-siông tinn: Standard 2) Tsió thn̂g: Less sugar (~80%) 3) Puànn thn̂g: Half sugar (~50%) 4) thn̂g: A little sugar (~20%) 5) thn̂g: No sugar 1) Tsìng-siông ping: Standard 2) Tsió ping: Less Ice (70-80%) 3) ping: A little Ice (~30%) 4) Khì ping: No Ice (cold but no ice cubes in the cup)

Many Taiwanese would specify what they’d like all in one go, following this exact order:

Number Size Hot / Cold Type of Drink Sugar Ice
Tsi̍t ê tuā pue(--ê) ping--ê hún-înn-ling-tê: thn̂g tsió ping
one large ice boba milk tea a little sugar less ice

When ordering a cold drink, you usually indicate the amount of ice, so “ping--ê” (ice) can be omitted. Try to order a cup of boba tea yourself and see if you can do it in one go. You can listen to our podcast to review this sentence. For more words about drinks, you can check out our downloadable workbook.

For this episode, we did receive some suggestions from a listener for alternative ways to specify your sugar level that we'd also like to share with all of our listeners. A big thanks to Ngôo Hê-bí for contacting us and providing this suggestion!

thn̂g 7-hun = 70% of the normal sugar level = tsió-thn̂g
thn̂g 5-hun = 50% of the normal sugar level = puànn-thn̂g
thn̂g 3-hun = 30% of the normal sugar level = bî-thn̂g


In this episode, we’ve talked about the three basic functions of the verb “ū”.

  1. To show possession e.g. In ū ka-pi kah ling-tê. They have coffee and milk tea.
  2. To show existence (location + “ū”) e.g. Hū-kīn ū tsi̍t king ím-liāu-tiàm. There is a drink shop nearby.
  3. To show a completed action (“ū” + verb)

When used before an action verb, it indicates the action has been completed. You can think of it as confirming the fact that it happened or the “existence” of the event or action. e.g. Guá ū king-kuè. I have passed by (it). / I passed by (it).


For all those overachievers out there, we will try to throw in a little something each episode that is a bit more challenging. The One Bite Challenge for this episode is a Taiwanese saying that means “to kill two birds with one stone”: It kiam kòo, bong lâ-á kiam sé khòo. “As you harvest clams, you also wash your pants”

kiam to be both … and … ; to hold two functions/posts
kòo to take care of, to look after
kiam-kòo to take into account both sides
it one
bong to touch, to fumble around/for
lâ-á clams
to wash
khòo pants, slacks

Music Credit: TeknoAXE

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