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Simultaneous tasks with "yibian"

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Multitasking is everywhere in the modern world (what else are you doing while you read this?), but you if can focus for just a minute, you can learn a way to express simultaneous tasks in Chinese! This can be done with 一边 (yībiān).

Structure

To express that one thing is done while doing something else, the word 一边 (yībiān) is used.

Subj. + 一边 + Verb (,) + 一边 + Verb

Note that you sometimes see 一边 (yībiān) shortened to 边 (biān) as well, which has a less formal feel.

Examples

  • 不要 一边 吃 东西,一边 说话 。Bùyào yībiān chī dōngxi, yībiān shuōhuà.Don't speak while eating.
  • 我 常常 一边 洗澡, 一边 唱歌 。Wǒ chángcháng yībiān xǐzǎo, yībiān chànggē.I often sing songs while I take a shower.
  • 孩子 喜欢 一边 吃饭, 一边 玩 。Háizi xǐhuan yībiān chīfàn, yībiān wán.Children like to play while eating.
  • 你 喜欢 一边 听 音乐, 一边 做 作业 吗 ?Nǐ xǐhuan yībiān tīng yīnyuè, yībiān zuò zuòyè ma? Do you like to listen to music while doing homework?
  • 我们 一边一边 聊 吧 。Wǒmen yībiān zǒu yībiān liáo ba.Let's walk while we talk.
  • 请 你 一边一边 写 。Qǐng nǐ yībiānyībiān xiě.Please write as you read.
  • 不要 一边 开车, 一边 打电话 。Bùyào yībiān kāichē, yībiān dǎ diànhuà.Don't talk on the phone while you drive.
  • 老板 喜欢 一边 抽烟,一边 工作 。Lǎobǎn xǐhuan yībiān chōuyān, yībiān gōngzuò.The boss likes to smoke while working.
  • 很多 人 都 一边 上班, 一边 玩 手机 。Hěn duō rén dōu yībiān shàngbān, yībiān wán shǒujī.Many people play with their cell phones while working.
  • 她 常常 一边 做饭,一边 带 孩子 。Tā chángcháng yībiān zuòfàn, yībiān dài háizi.She often looks after the baby while cooking food.

You'll notice that the order of the two actions is sometimes different in the original Chinese and the English translations above. This is because the "main" action usually comes second in English (after the "while"), but first in Chinese. For example, "take a shower while singing" sounds strange in English, but "sing while taking a shower" doesn't.

Note that you must be actively doing both actions. That is, they have to be intentional. If you want to say something happened while another thing was happening, it would be better to use 的时候 (de shíhou).

See also

Sources and further reading

Books