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Chinese Grammar: Lesson: 经过 vs 通过

经过 and 通过 . Perhaps you’ve noticed these two words in your learning, and you’ve started wondering: hang on, this is confusing. These two share a common character, and they both mean the same thing, ‘to go through”.

What gives? Surely, 经过 and 通过 don’t quite mean the same, or there wouldn’t be two words.

Are they synonyms? Can they be interchangeably used? Well, you’re right to wonder, because 经过 and 通过 may have similar meanings but they have different uses and in most cases, are not interchangeable. So, once you know these differences, there’ll be no mistaking when to use which in Mandarin Chinese. Let’s go explore the differences between the two!

The differences between 经过 and 通过

经过 and 通过 both have literal and figurative meanings. Their translation might be “to go through”, but depending on whether they are verbs, nouns or prepositions, there are nuances to each. Let’s start with 经过, which can either be a verb or a noun.

As a verb, 经过 has two meanings, one literal; one figurative.

经过 as a verb: literal meaning

Literally, 经过 means to pass by*; to pass through. It is often used with places, such as a house, a door, and with Objects.

Structure

Subject + 经过 + Place

Examples

经过 上学
I pass by this road to go to school.

每天 上班 经过 门口
I have to go past her house every time I go to work.

38路 公交车经过北海 公园
Does bus 38 go past Beihai Park?

经过 as a verb: Figurative meaning

经过’s figurative meaning is to have passed something or a process, to go through a time or to experience something. It is used to talk about completed actions, and puts emphasis on the process that brought on the change or the result. It is often translated as the preposition “ after” or “following” (some event).

Structure

经过 + Event/Time,Subject + Verb+ Object

Examples

经过测试 没有
Following the test, [we know; the result is] the water is not toxic."

经过比赛 取得 胜利
After going through the match, he obtained victory. (After taking part in the competition, he won).

经过大家 努力,他们 终于 成功
After much effort from everyone, they finally succeeded.

经过十几 小时 飞行,绿皮书 终于 到达 上海
After more than ten hours on the plane, Lupishu finally reached Shanghai.

Using 经过 as a noun

When it’s a noun, 经过 is used to talk about the process, a course or sequence of events.

Examples

事情 经过 这样
The process of this matter went like this.

告诉 真实 经过
Please tell me about your real experience.

通过 to go through

Similarly to 经过,通过 is either a verb, with both a literal and figurative meaning. Unlike 经过, it can't be a noun but 通过 can be a preposition.

通过 as a verb: literal meaning

通过’s literal meaning as a verb is to go through (enter and come out of) a structure, such as a door, or a tunnel.

Structure

Subject + 通过 + O

Examples

火车 通过 隧道
The train quickly went through the tunnel.

这里 需要通过
To get there from my house, I have to go through two bridges.

通过 as a verb: figurative meaning

通过 figuratively expresses going through some effort to reach acknowledgment or an agreement. It is often translated as to pass; both in the meaning of passing , approving, ratifying a bill or a piece of legislation and in the meaning of passing (qualifying, being successful in) an exam, an interview.

Structure

Subject + 通过 + Object

Examples

董事会通过 这个 计划
The board approved the project.

选举 一致通过
The election was unanimous.

男朋友通过 面试
My boyfriend passed the interview.

通过 朋友我们 找到
We found him thanks to his friends' help.

因为 努力通过 考试
I passed the exams because I worked hard.

Using 通过 as a preposition

In a situation where in order to achieve something, you needed to go through some effort, 通过 used as a preposition highlights how you made it through. It puts emphasis on the means (the method, or the manner) you used to achieve your desired outcome and is often translated as “through” (a method) or “via”. 通过 as a preposition can either be placed before or after the subject.

Structure

通过 + Method / Manner, Subject + Verb+ Object or Subject+ 通过+ Method / Manner + Verb + Object

Examples

通过讨论这个 提议通过
Through the discussion, this proposal was passed.

通过努力 取得 第一
He got the first prize through his hard work.

通过 电脑可以 了解 很多 信息
You can obtain many items of information through a computer.

Compare the two

Do you see what distinguishes 通过 and 经过 now? In English, both might at first be translated the same, but now you know they are not interchangeable and the circumstances in which you use each are quite different! In fact, you can even use both in the same sentence, without it being confusing, like so:

经过 讨论大家通过 这个 计划
After talking it over for a day, everyone agreed on this plan.

Summary

  • 经过 as a verb literally means “to pass by”; and figuratively means to “have passed something or a process”, to have experienced something and is often translated as “after”.
  • 通过 as a verb literally means “to go through” a structure, and figuratively means “to pass”
  • 经过 as a noun is used to talk about a process, a sequence of events.
  • 通过 cannot be a noun.
  • 通过 as a preposition means “through”; “via”; and places emphasis on the means used to achieve the outcome

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