Chinese Grammar: Expressing distance with 离
When you're travelling as extensively as Nincha and Lupishu are, knowing how to talk about distance is important! Especially, when one's not a big fan of walking and keeps asking "are we there yet?" all the time.
Are we there yet?
One of the words to know is 离, lí (from). It is used to measure the distance between two places. The sentence structure takes a little getting used to, but once you know, it always works the same!
Whether you’re just saying if a place is close, or far from another place, or want to be more specific, the pattern stays the same. Let’s see:
This structure always stays the same, whether you’re saying it in the negative form ...
... or asking a question.
Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 + distance + question word
Distances, what distances?
If you want to be more precise than just “close”, “not close”, far, not far, you can also choose to talk about a specific distance using miles; kilometers or any other unit to measure a distance.
Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 + Verb + distance (miles, kilometers, stops…)
You can also use 离 to measure duration; i.e. to talk about how far something is in time, like this:
Moment 1 + 离 + Moment 2 + Verb + duration
Notice that as usually one measures a duration from the current moment, the starting point is often implied. You could say “from now to my mother’s birthday” but that sounds strange in English, doesn't it? It also does in Chinese.
As with measuring a duration, the starting point can also be implied when you’re talking about a distance, as long as, in the context, it is clear what the speaker is talking about.
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