Chapter 13: Chinese action verbs

Updated:Sun, Oct 21, 2012 00:01 AM     Related:Chinese action verbs

This chapter shows you how to talk about completed, past, and ongoing actions, and introduces the overall properties of action verbs. There are two kinds of action verbs, those that describe open-ended actions, and those that describe actions that cause a change.

 

Action verbs are verbs that describe doing things. They include 买 mǎi ‘to shop,’ 学 xué ‘to study,’看kàn ‘to look at,’ ‘watch,’ ‘read,’ 吃 chī ‘to eat,’ 睡 shuì ‘to sleep,’ 去 qù ‘to go,’ 唱chàng ‘to sing,’ 洗 xǐ ‘to wash,’ etc.

This chapter shows you how to talk about completed, past, and ongoing actions, and introduces the overall properties of action verbs. There are two kinds of action verbs, those that describe open-ended actions, and those that describe actions that cause a change. The last two sections of this chapter present the characteristics of these two types of verbs.

1. Indicating that an action is completed or past

To indicate that an action is completed or past, follow the action verb with the verb suffix 了 le.

她买了东西。 She bought things.

他到图书馆去了。She went to the library.

If the action verb takes an object and the object is one syllable in length, 了le generally follows the object.

她上课了。She attended class.

2. Indicating that an action has been experienced in the past

To indicate that the subject had the experience of performing some action in the

past, follow the action verb with the verb suffix 过guo. The verb suffix 过 guo is used when talking about actions that the subject does not perform on a regular basis or for actions that happened in the remote past.

我看过那个电影。 I’ve seen that movie before.

我来过这里。 I’ve been here before.

3. Negating actions

3.1 Indicating that an action does not occur or will not occur

To indicate that an action does not occur or will not occur, negate the action verb with 不bù.

我不吃肉。I don’t eat meat.

台北从来不下雪。It does not snow in Taipei.

明天是星期六,我们不上课。 Tomorrow is Saturday. We don’t attend class.

3.2 Indicating that an action did not occur in the past

To indicate that an action did not occur in the past, negate the action verb with 没(有)méi (yǒu).

我今天没(有)吃早饭。 I didn’t eat breakfast today.

我没(有)买电脑。 I didn’t buy a computer.

When a verb is negated with 没 (有) méi (yǒu), it cannot be suffixed with 了 le. It can, however, be suffixed with 过guo.

I have never eaten Japanese food before. Say this:我没吃过日本菜。 Not this:我没吃了日本菜。

4. Open-ended action verbs

Open-ended action verbs refer to actions that can have duration and can be performed for a period of time. Examples of open-ended action verbs include 念niàn ‘to study/read aloud,’ 买 mǎi ‘to shop,’ 写xiě ‘to write,’ 学 xué ‘to study,’ 跑 pāo ‘to run,’ 吃 chī ‘to eat,’ 玩wán ‘to play,’ and 唱 chàng ‘to sing.’

4.1 Duration of open-ended actions

To indicate the duration of an open-ended action verb, follow the verb with a duration expression. In the following examples, the verb is emphasized.

他在中国了一年。 He lived in China for a year.

他每天一个钟头的报纸。 He reads a newspaper for one hour every day.

To emphasize the ongoing action of an open-ended action verb without specifying the length of the duration, follow the verb with the suffix 着 zhe. 在zài and 呢 ne often occur with 着 zhe. 在zài occurs before the verb and 呢ne occurs at the end of the sentence.

他在说这话呢。 He is speaking.

4.2 Open-ended action verbs and obligatory objects

Open-ended action verbs are typically followed by an obligatory object, a noun phrase that serves as the direct object of the verb. Many open-ended action verbs have a default object, an object that automatically occurs with the verb.

Default objects contribute little or no meaning to the verb+object phrase and are typically not translated into English.

Open-ended action verb Defaul t object Verb + object Example sentence

Open-ended action verb Defaul t object Verb  object Example sentence
说 shuō speak 话huà  speech 说话shuō huà  speak 他们在说话呢。They are speaking.
睡 shuì  sleep 觉 jiào  sleep 睡觉shuì jiào  sleep 她没睡觉。She didn’t sleep.
看read 书book 看书read 我喜欢看书。I like to read.
吃 eat 饭 rice 吃饭 eat 我们吃饭吧!Let’s eat!
写 write 字 character 写字 write 他不会写字。He can’t write.
画 paint 画 picture 画画儿 paint 他会画画儿。He can paint.
唱 sing 歌 song 唱歌 sing 他周末跟朋友唱歌儿。He sings with friends on the weekend.
洗 wash 澡 bathe 洗澡 wash; bathe 孩子不喜欢洗澡。Children do not like to bathe.
睡 sleep 觉 a sleep 睡觉 sleep 你什么时候睡觉?What time do you go to sleep?

When an object with fuller meaning is used, it replaces the default object.

For example:

• ‘to eat’ is 吃饭 chr fàn

‘to eat dumplings’ is 吃饺子 chī jiǎozi and not 吃饭饺子 chī fàn jiǎozi.

• ‘to write’ is 写字 xiě zì

‘to write English’ is 写英文 xiě Yīngwén and not 写字英文 xiě zì Yīngwén

• ‘to read’ is 看书 kàn shū

‘to read a newspaper’ is 看报 kàn bào and not 看书报 kànshū bào.

The direct object may be absent when it can be inferred from the context of the sentence.

Q: 你吃了晚饭吗? Did you eat dinner?

A: 吃了。I ate (dinner).

When it receives special emphasis, the direct object may occur at the beginning of the sentence as the topic, instead of after the verb.

那个电影我没有看过。 That movie, I still haven’t seen (it).

5. Change-of-state action verbs

Change-of-state verbs describe events in which the action of the verb results in a change. Here are some examples of change-of-state verbs.

zuò to sit (a change from standing to sitting)
zhàn to stand (a change from sitting to standing)
fàng to put/place (a change of location)
guà to hang (a change of location)
离开 líkāi to depart (a change of location)
穿 chuān to put on (clothing – on the torso and legs)
dài to put on (clothing – on the head, neck, and hands)
bìng to become sick (a change of health)
dào to arrive (a change of location from ‘not here’ to ‘here’)
to go (a change of location from ‘here’ to ‘not here’)

5.1 Change-of-state verbs and duration

Change-of-state verbs have no duration so they cannot be suffixed with the duration suffix 着 zhe and they cannot occur in other patterns that focus on the duration of an event.

5.2 Change-of-state verbs and stative verbs

Many change-of-state verbs also function as stative verbs.

Change-of-state verb Stative verb
zuò To sit down To be seated
zhàn To stand up To be standing
dài To put on (clothing) To wear
bìng To become sick To be sick
guà To hang (something up) To be hanging

 

Source:HugChina

 

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