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Chinese Grammar: Lesson: Result complements (B1)

[This is part B of our series on Complements: talking about results with result complements.]

In English, to talk about results, we use different words to distinct the state of an object. For instance, to look and see, to listen and hear. In Chinese, result complements are added to the action verb, to indicate whether the action was done or not. Result complements are extremely frequent and useful in Mandarin Chinese, so after seeing directional complements, it’s only natural to move to these complements! Let’s go explore!

Why do we use result complements in Chinese?

As their name indicates, result Complements are about the result of the verb. A lot of verbs in Chinese don’t include their result. For instance,

  • is to look, but it doesn’t indicate to see.
  • is to listen, but it doesn’t mean it’s heard.
  • is an attempt to remember, but it doesn’t indicate whether it was or not remembered.

Because verbs don’t indicate their result, they therefore need an additional word to indicate it: these words are called result complements. Just like direction complements, result complements are attached to the action verb, they indicate its result.

As you can imagine, result complements are therefore very frequently used in Chinese. Some very common result complements are:

  • indicates an action is finished or completed (做完 to finish, to complete the task)
  • indicates to see (看见 to see, to catch sight of)
  • this directional complement also can be a result complement (关上 to close [a door])
  • indicates the action achieved its purpose (听到 to [manage to] hear)
  • indicates something is right, correct ( to say correctly)
  • indicates a mistake, something wrong or incorrect ( to write incorrectly)
  • indicates something is complete or done well ( to have finished doing)
  • indicates firmness, steadiness, or the coming to a halt (记住 to remember; to bear in mind; to remember by heart)
  • indicates something is broken, damaged, destroyed (打破 to break, to smash)

Results in result components can either be intentional or unintentional. As you can see in the list, things can found and things can be smashed with result components.

Structure

Subject + Verb + (Object) + Result complement

Result complements and verbs form together a new verb compound, which can’t be separated into separate units. To make complements of result easier to understand, here’s a table of some common “verb + result complement” compounds:

Verb Result Complement Compound Verb
to look 看见 to see (to look + see)
to look for 找到 to find (to look + achievement)
to listen 听懂 to understand what you hear
to listen 听到 to hear (to succeed in hearing
to write 写完 to finish writing
to eat 吃饱 to eat till full
to study 学会 to master

Result complements in Mandarin Chinese are what distinguishes a full bowl of rice from an empty bowl and a full stomach (presumably, if the rice in the bowl that was finished was eaten).

Examples

吃饱
I'm full, I can't eat anymore.

我们 吃完
We just finished eating.

昨天 看见
I saw him yesterday.

晚饭 差不多
Dinner is almost ready.

地址
Write down your address on it.

Negations and

You can also use result components to talk about things that didn’t happen. Simply add / 没有 before the compound verb to do so.

Subject + Negative / 没有 + Compound Verb + Object

Examples

听懂
She didn't understand.

As the sentences talk about results, you’ll find a in sentences about completed actions and as always, none when talking about incomplete or unfinished actions.

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