How to express “why on earth did this happen? ” kind of questions in Chinese

I don’t know whether it just happens in English or any other languages, the sentence pattern that I gonna talk about today seems very very important due to the high demands of its usage:

“Why on earth did this happen?”

Even a toddler that survives a full day daycare program in Canada would always pop out the follow phrase 🙂 :

“What the … ?!”

So I figure for my Learn Mandarin online friends, we can’t miss out on this importance pattern. No matter you come from English background, or any other language background, this Chinese sentence pattern will come handy for you in your Chinese conversation for sure.

The new words we gonna learn in this lesson are only two of them:

jiū jìng dào dǐ 
[hanzi]究竟[/hanzi]   [hanzi]到底 [/hanzi]
What on earth … What on earth …

Let’s get started by translating the title sentence pattern into Chinese:

“Why on earth did this happen?”

jiūjìng wèishénme huì fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì?


究竟 jiū jìng is one main keyword that you can use for this purpose. You can also reorder the sentence by placing 究竟 jiū jìng in a difference position too. Let’s reorder it like this :

fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì jiūjìng shì wèishénme?


究竟 jiū jìng can be replaced by 到底 dào dǐ as well. So the above two sentences can be reworded like this :

dàodǐ wèishénme huì fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì? 



fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì dàodǐ shì wèishénme?


Now let’s do a little practice using these two keywords:


[ Practice 1:  What on earth is this? ]

First, let’s get rid of the “on earth” and turn the question into a simple W question:

What is this?

In Chinese, we say:

zhè shì shénme?


Then we place 究竟 jiū jìng or 到底 dào dǐ in the proper position of the sentence to turn it into the sentence pattern we learned today:

zhè jiūjìng shì shénme?



zhè dàodǐ shì shénme?


Do you get a feel of it now? Let’s look at another question :


[ Practice 2:  What exactly did you do yesterday? ]

The Chinese translation of this type of question is same as the previous example, you can say:

nǐ zuótiān dàodǐ zuò le shénme?



nǐ zuótiān jiūjìng zuò le shénme?


As for the toddler’s phrase:”What the … ?!”, usually it can be directly translated into “怎么回事 zěn me huí shì?!” in Chinese. The complete sentence could be “到底怎么回事 dào dǐ zěn me huí shì?!

Do you get it now? Feel free to share any other ways you know to express “What on earth …”, “What exactly …” kind of sentence patterns in Chinese.

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on  !  🙂



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