Direction complement "-qilai"

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起来 (qǐlái) comes up very frequently in Chinese and can be used both literally and figuratively. This is a little like the usage of "up" in English, which can be used literally, as in "stand up," or figuratively, as in "add up." When used figuratively, 起来 often serves as a direction complement.

Basic Meaning


起来 can be used to express an upward movement like "up," as in the English examples of "stand up" or "pick up."

Verb + 起来


  • 请 大家 起来Qǐng dàjiā zhàn qǐlái.Everyone, please stand up.
  • 起来Jiǎn qǐlái.Pick it up (from the floor).
  • 起来Tóu tái qǐlái.Raise your head.
  • 别动 ! 起来Bié dòng! shǒu qǐlái.Don't move! Put your hands up.

Used for Initiation of an Action


起来 can also be used to show that an action or state has started and is ongoing:

Verb / Adj. + 起来 +了


  • 小鸟 飞 起来 Xiǎoniǎo fēi qǐlái le .The birds started flying.
  • 宝宝 哭 起来 Bǎobao kū qǐlái le.The baby started crying.
  • 两 个 大妈 吵 起来 Liǎng gè dàmā chǎo qǐlái le.Two middle-aged ladies started arguing.
  • 天气 热 起来 Tiānqì rè qǐlái le.It's getting hot.
  • 结婚 以后 ,她 胖 起来 Jiéhūn yǐhòu, tā pàng qǐlái le.After she got married, she has started to gain weight.
  • 爷爷 的 身体 好 起来 Yéye de shēntǐ hǎo qǐlái le.Grandpa's health is getting better.

When used like this, 起来 is only used with spontaneous actions, like 唱 (chàng), 跳 (tiào), 聊 (liáo), or with states like 热 (rè), 冷 (lěng), or 好 (hǎo) etc. It cannot be used with planned actions.

  • 你 几 点 工作 起来Nǐ jǐ diǎn gōngzuò qǐlái?
  • 你 几 点 开始 工作Nǐ jǐ diǎn kāishǐ gōngzuò?What time will you start working?

It can also used as a way to encourage people to start doing something immediately:

  • 大家 起来 起来 ! Dàjiā chàng qǐlái, tiào qǐlái !Let's sing and dance, everybody!

Used for an Initial Judgement

起来 is used here to express that the speaker has only just initiated an action, and based on that, has made a preliminary judgment. It is used in the following structure:


Subj. + Verb + 起来 + Adv. + Adj.

This expresses that the subject seems adjective when the action of the verb is performed. This structure is frequently used with perception verbs such as 看, 听, 闻, 摸, etc.


  • 看 起来 很 友好kàn qǐlái hěn yǒuhǎo.He looks very friendly.
  • 你 的 头发 闻 起来 很 香Nǐ de tóufa wén qǐlái hěn xiāng.Your hair smells good.
  • 这 件 事情 听 起来 有点 复杂Zhè jiàn shìqing tīng qǐlái yǒudiǎn fùzá.This matter sounds a little bit complex.
  • 这些 菜 尝 起来不错Zhèxiē cài cháng qǐlái dōu bùcuò.These foods all taste good.
  • 你 的 床 摸 起来 很 舒服Nǐ de chuáng mō qǐlái hěn shūfu.Your bed feels very comfortable.

See also

Sources and further reading