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Comparing "li" and "cong"

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Both 离 (lí) and 从 (cóng) can be translated into English as "from." In Chinese, however, their meanings are different. 从 is used in cases where the subject's position relative to a fixed location changes. 离 expresses a "static" distance, or a distance that is unchanging. Both can be used in defining distance or time, however 从 has more meanings than 离.

从 as "from" (Time or Event)

Structure

从 + Time / Event + 开始 / 起

Examples

  • 下个 月 ,公司 会 越来越 忙 。Cóng xiàge yuè , gōngsī huì yuèláiyuè máng.Starting from next month, the company will be busier and busier.
  • 我 上小学 开始,就 特别 喜欢 画画 。Cóng wǒ shàng xiǎoxué kāishǐ, jiù tèbié xǐhuan huà huà.I liked drawing since I was in elementary school

Colloquial Sayings

从那以后 means "ever since then," while 从今以后 means "from now on."

A few examples:

  • 从 那 以后 ,我们 就 没有 联系 了 。Cóng nà yǐhòu, wǒmen jiù méiyǒu liánxì le.We stopped contacting with each other since then.
  • 从 今以后 ,我 不用 再 加班 了 。Cóng jīn yǐhòu, wǒ bùyòng zài jiābān le.I don't need to work late from now on.

从 as "from" (Place, Somebody or Something)

Structure

从 + Place + 上 / 里

Examples

  • 你 是不是 我 包里 拿 了 一百块钱 ?Nǐ shì bù shì cóng wǒ bāo lǐ ná le yī bǎi kuài qián?Did you or did you not take one hundred RMB from my purse?
  • 他 身上 学到 了 很多 东西 。cóng tā shēnshang xuédào le hěn duō dōngxi.I learned a lot from him.
  • 这 件 事 可以 看出 你 的 工作 态度 。Cóng zhè jiàn shì kěyǐ kànchū nǐ de gōngzuò tàidu.We can see your work attitude from this.

离 as "away from" (Distance)

Structure

Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 + 远 / 近

Examples

  • 你 家 公司 多 远Nǐ jiā gōngsī duō yuǎn?How far is your home from your company?
  • 我 家 公司 很远Wǒ jiā gōngsī hěn yuǎn.My home is far from my company.

Try not to say:

  • 我 家 很远 公司 。Wǒ jiā hěn yuǎn cóng gōngsī.

离 as "from" (Time or Event)

Structure

Past Event 1 + 离 + Time + Duration

以现在为时间的起点,try this pattern:

离 + Future Event + 还有 + Duration

Examples

  • 上次见面 今天 快 十年 了 。Shàng cì jiànmiàn jīntiān kuài shí nián le.It's been about 10 years since we met last time.
  • 我们 的 婚礼 还有 两个 星期 。 wǒmen de hūnlǐ háiyǒu liǎng gè xīngqī.We still have two weeks until our wedding.
  • 毕业 还有 几个月 。 bìyè háiyǒu jǐ gè yuè.I am a few months away from graduation.

Colloquial Saying 离⋯⋯还远呢

离⋯⋯还远呢 expresses that something is very far off in terms of time.

  • 我们 刚刚 开始 谈恋爱 , 结婚 还远 呢 。Wǒmen gānggāng kāishǐ tánliànài, jiéhūn háiyuǎn ne.We've just started our relationship. It's too soon to talk about marriage.

Sources and further reading

Books