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Chinese Grammar: Expressing "finally", “on earth” and "in the end" with 到底 & 究竟

There are always people who like to give ambiguous answers. Each time, it never fails: the only thing you want to say is "what on earth do you mean?"

Let's see how to express “on earth” in Chinese with 到底 and 究竟. So that next time you're facing these guys, you'll know how to get things clear.

"On earth" with 到底

到底 is very straightforward to the point you can translate 到底 into “on earth”, "finally" or "in the end" in English.


到底 + question phrase


到底 什么 意思
What on earth do you mean?

到底 喜欢 什么
What on earth do you like to eat?

到底 什么 电影 ? In the end, what film do you want to watch?

“After all” with 到底

When you want to emphasize something, you can also use 到底 to say “after all”. 到底 insists on a reason or some particular aspect of someone/something.


到底 + Reason/Aspect + Phrases


到底 孩子 生气
Don’t be mad at him, after all, he is still a kid.

到底 老师知道 我们
He knows more than us, after all, he is a teacher.

到底 什么 清楚
He is not clear at all, after all, he's newly arrived here.

究竟 to say in the end

Another word to express “on earth” is 究竟. Use it when you want to get to the bottom of something. You could translate in English as "in the end".

It is used in the same way as 到底, usually in a question form.


究竟 + question


究竟 发生 什么事
What on earth happened to you?

究竟 怎么办
What should I do in the end?

究竟 什么
What exactly is he thinking?

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