Chinese Grammar: Lesson: Direction complements (B1)
Just like in English, where “out”; “over; “up”, “down” etc. give very different meanings to the verb “turn”, Mandarin Chinese is full of words you can add to a verb to specify and describe its action. These words are called complements. There are all sorts of complements in Chinese: direction complements, degree complements, potential complements, result complements...
Enough to start a small Series. Once you finish this series you’ll be able to accurately and precisely describe your actions in Chinese; which, is useful in a lot of situations, as you’ll see in the examples! Let’s begin the Series of stages on Complements here, starting with Direction complements.
Remember learning about 得? That was your first approach of components in Chinese. This is its logical followup.
Are you going up? Down? Coming in? Going out? Just like in English, it's the little words you add to the verb that help you be clear about your direction. In Chinese, these words called 趋向 补语 (qūxiàng bǔyǔ) direction complements.
Direction complements: the basics
Direction complements can be directional words, other verbs or a combination of both.
Rather simply, as we do in English, you can add a directional word to the verb, to describe where the verb is going. The most common words to indicate a direction are:
- 上 , up and 下, down <== notice how they kind of look like arrows?
- 进, in and 出, out
- 过, to cross over
- 起, up
- 回 to come back.
- 到 (to arrive) to
You just place the directional word right after the verb, like so:
The verbs 来 & 去 can also be used as directional complements and are in fact two of the most commonly used. They indicate the speaker’s position. 来 is for used for actions coming up and 去 for actions going down.
To know when to use 来 & 去, you need to pay attention to the position of the speaker. Use 来 if the action is moving closer to the speaker and 去 if it's the opposite: the action is moving far way from the speaker.
Directional words are also verbs of movement, so they can be used on their own in a sentence in combination with 来 / 去 when the main action is a movement and when you want to indicate the speaker’s position in relation with the movement.
(过去 almost means the past, and to pass by, so make sure your sentence is clear in the context!)
- 起来 comes up (up towards the speaker)
You can also use directional complements to talk about arriving at destinations. The structure is a little different as you separate the verb from its direction complement and place the location in between the two:
As you can see in the examples, these simple directional complements are used in a huge variety of situations, so once you’ve gotten these direction down pat, you’ll be able to accurately describe a lot of movement actions in Chinese! Let’s go practice and then you’ll be ready for the next step, what happens when you mix a verb, a direction word and 来 or 去!
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