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Result complements "dao" and "jian"

Two of the most common result complements in Chinese are 到 (dào) and 见 (jiàn). On this page we're only going to be talking about verbs related to the senses ("see," hear," etc.), and for this usage, the two are interchangeable.

Verb with "到" and "见"

Structure

Result complements are a huge topic in Chinese grammar, but you can approach them in stages. The structure you come across the most is a verb with 到 (dào):

Subject + Verb + 到 + Object

What 到 (dào) does is indicate that the outcome of the verb is achieved - what its result is. Without a result complement, the sentence would describe only the action itself. To illustrate, 看 (kàn) "to look" is the action of turning one's head in a particular direction and focusing one's eyes, whereas 看到 (kàn dào)," to see," is the result of your brain taking in the visual input.

The complement 见 (jiàn) is very similar to 到 (dào), and it is used in the same way:

Subject + Verb + 见 + Object

However, there is a difference. 见 (jiàn) is generally only used after verbs involving sense, like 听 (tīng) and 看 (kàn), whereas 到 (dào) can be attached to a large variety of verbs (which we will discuss at a higher level on Tricky uses of "dao").

Examples

  • 你 看 那 个 帅哥 了 吗 ? Nǐ kàn jiàn nà ge shuàigē le ma? Did you see that handsome boy?
  • 你 看 那 个 帅哥 了 吗 ? Nǐ kàn dào nà ge shuàigē le ma? Did you see that handsome boy?
  • 我 看 了 。 (We didn't say what "I" saw; you have to base it on context.)Wǒ kàn jiàn le. I saw him.
  • 我 看 了 。 Wǒ kàn dào le. I saw him.
  • 你 听 了 吗 ? Nǐ tīng jiàn le ma? Did you hear it?
  • 你 听 了 吗 ? Nǐ tīng dào le ma? Did you hear it?

Negative form

Structure

Subject + 没 + Verb + 到/见 + Object

As in the last sentence, this structure can be negated using 没 (méi).

Examples

  • 那 个 帅哥 吗 ? méi kàn dào nà ge shuàigē ma? You didn't see that handsome boy?
  • 那 个 帅哥 吗 ? méi kàn jiàn nà ge shuàigē ma? You didn't see that handsome boy?
  • 我 没有 看 Wǒ méiyǒu kàn dào. I didn't see him.
  • 我 没有 看 (We didn't say what "I" didn't see; you have to base it on context.)Wǒ méiyǒu kàn jiàn. I didn't see him.
  • 吗 ? méi tīng dào ma? You didn't hear it?
  • 吗 ? méi tīng jiàn ma? You didn't hear it?

See also

Sources and further reading

Books