Comparing "gen" and "dui"
跟 (gēn) and 对 (duì) sometimes seem like they mean the same thing, and at other times they seem to be different. You need to be aware which cases are which.
- 1 When they have the same form and same meaning when used with 说
- 2 When they have a similar grammar structure but different meanings
- 3 When to use 跟 and not 对
- 4 Examples when to use 对 and not 跟
- 5 Example Dialog
- 6 See Also
- 7 Sources and further reading
When they have the same form and same meaning when used with 说
When using the verb 说, 跟 and 对 can both be used in a similar sentence pattern. 跟 and 对 are both prepositions, and they both express one person speaking to another.
Person A + 跟 / 对 + Person B 说
- 我 跟 她 说 了，但是 她 不 信。I told her, but she didn't believe me.
- 我 对 她 说 了，但是 她 不 信。I told her, but she didn't believe me.
- 他 对 我 说 他 爱 我。He told me he loved me.
- 他 跟 我 说 他 爱 我。He told me he loved me.
- 刚才 你 对 他 说 什么 了？What did you just tell him?
- 刚才 你 跟 他 说 什么 了？What did you just tell him?
When they have a similar grammar structure but different meanings
跟 and 对 can be verbs, and they often are used with a 着, however their meanings are different.
Subj. + 跟 / 对 + Obj.
Examples for 跟
跟 is a verb, and it's simplest meaning is "follow." Often it is used as a verb phrase, such as 跟着, 跟上, 跟不上, 跟得上, 跟somebody + Verb.
- 这 只 小 猫 总是 跟着 我。This little cat always follows me.
- 你 走 得 太 快 ，我 跟不上。You walk too fast, I can't keep up.
- 你 想 跟 我 去 吗？Do you want to go with me?
Examples for 对
对 is also a verb, put it has the meaning of "towards" or "point to." Often it is used as: 对着, 对上, 对不上.
- 枪口 不 要 对着 人。Don't point that at people.
- 我 喜欢 对着 镜子 笑。I like to laugh at myself in the mirror.
- 这 两 本 账 对不上。These two accounts don't match up.
When to use 跟 and not 对
跟 is a proposition, and it can be used in comparison. It will often have a supplementary explanation, similar to how 和 can be used (as in 我和你一样高). 对 cannot be used this way.
This structure is used to explain that two things are (or aren't) similar.
A + 跟 + B + （不）一样
- 我 跟 你们 不一样，我 还 有 孩子 呢。I am not like you guys. I still have kids.
- 上海 跟 纽约 一样，都 是 国际 大 都市。Shanghai and New York are alike; they are both international cities.
This structure shows that two nouns are the same in some some aspect, which is the word that follows "一样."
A + 跟 + B + （不）一样 + Adj.
- 我 现在 跟 我 爸 一样 高。Now I'm as tall as my dad.
- 你 跟 你 妈 一样 喜欢 买 衣服。You like to buy clothes just like your mother.
"跟" functions as a conjunction in this structure, joining two things together. Generally, these are nouns or pronouns (as with "和"). "对" cannot function like this.
Subj. 1 跟 Subj. 2 + Verb-Obj.
- 你 要 跟 我 一起 去 吗？Are you going to go with me?
- 鲜花 跟巧克力 是 最 好 的 礼物。Flowers and chocolate are the best gifts.
Examples when to use 对 and not 跟
When 对 as a proposition, it points to a certain target,since it can mean "point to" or "toward to." 跟 can only be used this way with 说.
Subj. 1 对 Subj. 2 + Verb
- 那 个 美女 正 对 我 笑 呢。That pretty girl is laughing at me.
- 不 要 对 老板 发脾气， 不然 后果 很 严重。Don't lose your temper with the boss, otherwise there will be serious consequences.
- A: 那 个 帅哥 在 对 我 招手！That handsome guy is motioning for me to go to him!
- B: 那 你 要 跟 他 去 吗？Well, are you going to go with him?
Sources and further reading
- 现代汉语八百词（增订本） (pp. 201) [ →buy]