Chinese Grammar: 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”.
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!
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.
Subject + 经过 + Place
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).
经过 + Event/Time，Subject + Verb+ Object
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.
通过 to go through
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.
Subject + 通过 + O
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.
Subject + 通过 + Object
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.
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 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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