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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 , (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:

Place 1 + + Place 2 + distance ( /)

公共汽车站 + +火车站 +


公共 车站 车站
The bus station is very close to the railway station.


This structure always stays the same, whether you’re saying it in the negative form ...

Place 1 + + Place 2 + + distance ( /)


My school is not far from my home.

火车站 我们
We are not far from the train station.

Question form

... or asking a question.

Place 1 + + Place 2 + distance + question word


上海 北京
Is Shanghai far from Beijing?

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 + + Place 2 + Verb + distance (miles, kilometers, stops…)


这儿 飞机场 公里
The airport is thirty-five kilometers from here.

Measuring time

You can also use to measure duration; i.e. to talk about how far something is in time, like this:


Moment 1 + + 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.


妈妈 生日 星期
My mother’s birthday is in two weeks.

考试 还有
There’s still a month before the exam.

下班 还有 二十 分钟
There’s still 20 minutes before we finish work.

Implied place

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.


公共汽车站 走路 分钟
There’s a ten-minute walk [from here] to the bus station.

There are seven stops to the airport.

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