Using "lai" as a dummy verb

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The verb 来 (lái) can be used as a "dummy verb," similar to the way "do" is used in English. To illustrate the point, imagine a bottle of pickles that you want to open but can't because the lid is so tight. You start passing it around to see who can open it, and no one is able to, until your beefy friend comes in and says, "我来!" He is saying, "Let me do it!"


The structure for using 来 as a dummy verb is very basic. Usually it is a very short phrase, kind of like "your turn!" or "let me give it a shot!" or "you do it!" in English. Usually it is used with 你 or 我 as the subject, and it ends with the 来. Sometimes it can end with a 吧.

(让 +) Subj. + 来

The point of calling 来 a "dummy verb" is that it does't have the original meaning of "to come." It just takes the place of whatever the verb would be in the context.


  • lái!You do it!
  • 吧。lái ba.Let me do it.
  • 让 他 自己 Ràng tā zìjǐ lái.Let him do it himself.
  • 还是 你们 自己 吧 。Háishì nǐmen zìjǐ lái ba.It's better that you do it by yourselves.
  • 你 写 得 好看 ,你 吧 。Nǐ xiě de hǎokàn, nǐ lái ba.You write well. You write it.

A few example dialogs to provide clearer context:

  • A:谁 能 读 一 下 这 段 话 ?Shéi néng dú yīxià zhè duàn huà?Who can read this passage?
  • B:老师 ,我 Lāoshī, wǒ lái.Teacher, let me read it.
  • A:你 怎么 做 得 这么 慢 ?Nǐ zěnme zuò de zhème màn?How come you do it so slowly?
  • B:你 觉得 我 慢 ?你 Nǐ juéde wǒ màn? Nǐ lái!You think I'm slow? You do it!
  • A:这个 箱子 真 重 !Zhège xiāngzi zhēn zhòng!This box is so heavy!
  • B: 吧 。 lái ba.Let me help.

Sources and further reading


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