|Is similar to|
|Is used for||Expressing movement, Describing places, Describing actions|
|Keywords||来, 去, 下, 上, 出, 回, 进, 到, 过, 起|
- Also known as: 趋向补语 (qūxiàng bǔyǔ), directional complement and complement of direction.
A direction complement is a verbal complement that's used, you guessed it, to describe the direction of a verb.
Coming and going
The most basic (and common) form of direction complement is formed by a verb and 来 or 去:
Verb + 来 or 去
The most important thing to consider with direction complements is the position of the speaker. If the action moves towards the speaker or comes closer in any way, use 来. If the action moves away from the speaker or becomes more distant in any way, use 去.
|Position of speaker||←||下||下来||The movement is down towards the speaker: "come down"|
|→||下||下去||The movement is down away from the speaker: "go down"|
|←||上||上来||The movement is up towards the speaker: "come up"|
|→||上||上去||The movement is up and away from the speaker: "go up"|
|←||出||出来||The movement is out and towards the speaker: "come out"|
|→||出||出去||The movement is out and away from the speaker: "go out"|
|←||进||进来||The movement is in and towards the speaker: "come in"|
|→||进||进去||The movement is in and away from the speaker: "go in"|
You might be wondering how the directional distinction between 来 and 去 works when you're talking about yourself moving. You can't move away from or towards yourself, so should it be 来 or 去? The answer is to look at the context of the movement you're talking about. Are you telling someone you'll see them tomorrow? As in English, in Chinese you'd say something like "I'll come and see you tomorrow".
You can use these simple compounds in a huge variety of situations. Here are some examples:
- 我 在 楼上，请 你十分钟以后上来。I'm on the upper floor. Please come up in ten minutes.
- 在树上 玩 很 危险，你 快下来！”It's too dangerous to play in the tree! Come down!"
- 你在楼上等我一下。我一会儿就 上去找你。Please wait a moment on the upper floor. I'm coming up to you in a few seconds.
- 我在楼下，你赶快 下来吧。I'm on the lower floor. Please come down to me.
- 里面 人太多了，你们 出来透透气吧。There are too many people inside there.You guys need to get out and use some fresh air.
- 我们 在 里面 开会， 大家都 进来吧。We are going to have a meeting inside.Please come in here.
- 他们 在 外面，咱们 出去 跟 他们 见面。They are outside. We should go out and meet them.
- 他 在 办公室里 等你，你 快进去 吧。He is waiting for you in his office.You can go in now.
With other verbs
来 and 去 can form direction compounds with many other verbs. Some more examples:
- 你 什么时候 回来 ？When are you coming back?
- 他 明天 一个人回去。He is going back alone tomorrow.
- 你 过来把你的东西收拾好。Come here and put away you own stuff.
- 我 看到 马路对面 新开了 一家 蛋糕店,就 走 过去 了。I saw a new cake shop on the other side of the road and then I went up to it.
Adding a place with 到
Direction complements are very useful for talking about arriving at destinations. The structure for this is:
到 + place + 来 or 去
Notice that you separate the verb from its direction complement. The location goes in between the two. Some examples:
- 我 妹妹 到 上海 来 了。My sister arrived in Shanghai.
- 你 想 到 我家 来 吗？Do you want to come to my house?
- 我 明年 会 到 巴黎 去。I'm going to Paris tomorrow.
- 他 没有 到 中国 去 过。He hasn't gone to China.
Compound direction complements
Direction complements can be more complex than just 来 or 去. You can form compound direction complements in the following way:
These compounds can then be used in the same way as 来 and 去. Attach them to verbs to give detail about the direction of the action. Some examples:
Direction complements and objects
Direction complements are not only used to describe the movement of people. Moving objects can also be described with direction complements. Again, the direction of the movement relative to the speaker (or at least to the context of the conversation) is what's most important when deciding what complement to use.
Subject + verb + direction complement + object
This is the structure for the basic form of a sentence with a direction complement and an object. Verbs that commonly appear in this construction include 拿, 送, and 带. Some examples:
- 我 带 来 了 一 些 水果。I brought some fruit.
- 我 从 书架 上 拿 下来 一 本 书。I took a book down from the bookshelf.
- 他 给 我 送 来 了 一 朵 花。He gave me some flowers.
- 放 下 你的 枪！Put down your gun!
Direction complements and 把
Direction complements work very well in 把 sentences, as they can be used to describe the disposal of an object (what happened to it in the end). Because of this, it's very common to see direction complements and 把 appearing together. The structure is:
Subject + 把 + Object + Verb + Direction complement
The above examples can be re-arranged into 把 sentences:
- 我 把 一 些 水果 带 来 了。
- 我 把 一 本 书 从 书架 上 拿 下来 了。
- 他 把 一 朵 花 给 我 送 去 了。
- 把 你的 手枪 放 下来！
- See also: 把 sentences
Negating direction complements
Direction complements are negated in the same way as other complements. Treat the verb and direction complement as a compound verb, and negate it with 不 or 没有:
Subject + 不 or 没有 + Verb + Direction complement
- 我 不会 回 去。I cannot go back.
- 文件 还 没有 送 过来。The document still has not arrived.
- 他的车还 没有 开 回来。His car hasn't been driven back yet.
Direction complements in questions
You can form questions with sentences containing result complements just as you would with any other sentence:
- With a question particle
- With a question word
- With positive-negative inversion
- 你 到 上海 来 了 吗？Have you arrived at Shanghai?
- 这 个 楼 很 高 － 你 能 上去 吗？This building is very tall, are you able to go up?
- 刚才 从 那 个 楼房 出来 的 人 是 谁？Who is that person who just came out of that building?
- 你 什么 时候 会 回来？When will you go back?
- 你 想 不想 跟 我 出去？Do you want to go out with me?
- 你 能 不能 把 这 个 盒子 拿 起来？Are you able to pick up this box?
Direction complements with aspect particles
The aspect particles 了 and 过 can be used with direction complements. These are placed after the direction complement. 着 can not be used with direction complements
- 我 回来 了。I came back.
- 他 走 出来 了。He walked out (towards the speaker).
- 我 带来 了 我的 朋友。I brought my friend.
- 离开 中国 以后，他 没有 回来 过。After leaving China, he hasn't come back.
- 我 在 上海 出去 过 几 次。I've gone to Shanghai a number of times.
- 我 没 进去 过 那 间 房间。I haven't gone in that room.
Additional meanings of direction complements
A lot of direction complements, particularly compound direction complements, have additional idiomatic meanings beyond literally describing the direction of an action. The most common of these are:
Sources and further reading
- A Practical Chinese Grammar For Foreigners (外国人实用汉语语法) (pp. 302-17) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (pp. 165) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 185-9) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 1 (pp. 267-8) →buy
- Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (pp. 58-65) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 40-1, 197-8) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课下册） (pp. 313-4)→buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (pp. 238-9, 255)→buy
- Mandarin Essential Grammar (Yale): Directional Complements
Yoyo Chinese: Introduction to complement of direction