Expressing distance with "li"
Are we there yet? One of the ways to express distance is to use 离 (lí). The word order might seem a little tricky at first, but once you get it down, you'll be able to talk about distance with no problem.
Using 离 (lí) in a Statement
Unless you're talking about a very specific distance, you'll normally want to pair 离 (lí) with the adjective 近 (jìn) for "close," or 远 (yuǎn) for "far."
Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 + Adv. + 近 / 远
So this pattern is normally used to simply express that one place is (not) close or (not) far from another place. Easy, right? It's learning the sentence pattern that usually trips learners up, because it doesn't feel like natural word order to a speaker of English.
- 我 家 离 公司 很 近。My house is close to my office.
- 美国 离 中国 很 远。The USA is far from China.
- 这 个 酒店 离 火车站 很 近。 This hotel is very close to the train station.
- 那 个 酒吧 离 这儿 太 远 了， 我 不 想 去。 That bar is too far away from here. I don't want to go.
- 我 不想 去 离 家 很 远 的 地方 工作。I don't want to go work at a place very far away from home.
Using 离 (lí) in a Question
These two sentence patterns are extremely common in everyday conversations when discussing distances.
Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 (+ Adv.) + 近 / 远 + 吗？
Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 (+ 有) + 多远？
Note that in English, you can actually ask, "How close is it from here?" if the distance is obviously short. But in Chinese it's just, "How far is it from here?"
- 你家 离 超市 远 吗？Is your house far away from the supermarket?
- 你 的 大学 离 你 老家 很 远 吗？Is your college very far away from your hometown?
- 你们 公司 离 地铁站 近 吗？Is your company close to the metro station?
- 你 家 离 学校 多远？How far is it from your home to school?
- 这个 酒店 离 机场 有 多远？How far is it from this hotel to the airport?
Expressing "Stay Away from Me" with 离 (lí)
One final example is a command, commonly heard in colloquial Chinese:
- 你 离 我 远 点 儿 ！ Stay away from me.
It's a somewhat atypical usage when compared with the others, because it uses two people rather than two places. The sentence literally means, "Distance yourself from me further." In other words, "Stay away from me," or "Don't come near me."
Sources and further reading
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (pp. 112 - 113) →buy
- Boya Chinese Elementary Starter 2 (博雅汉语初经起步篇) (pp. 11) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 154) →buy