Expressing existence in a place with "zai"

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The verb 在 (zài) expresses existence in a location, similar to how we say in English, "to be at" or "to be in."


The verb 在 (zài) is used to express existence in a place. English does not have a verb exclusively for this purpose, and instead uses "to be" with a preposition. In Chinese, 在 (zài) can cover both of these roles.

Subj. + 在 + Place

Remember that you don't need another verb in this construction. It can be tempting to try use 是 (shì), as English uses "to be," but this is not correct. 在 (zài) is the only verb needed.


  • 上海。zài Shànghǎi.I'm in Shanghai.
  • 他们 英国。Tāmen zài Yīngguó.They're in England.
  • 老板 外面。Lǎobǎn zài wàimiàn.The boss is outside.
  • 他 不 学校。Tā bù zài xuéxiào.He's not at school.
  • 她 现在 家 吗?Tā xiànzài zài jiā ma?Is she at home now?
  • 公司 吗?Literally, "Are you at the company?"zài gōngsī ma?Are you at the office?
  • 老师 不 办公室 吗? Lǎoshī bù zài bàngōngshì ma?Is the teacher not in the office?
  • 楼上?Shéi zài lóushàng?Who is upstairs?
  • 我 和 朋友 酒吧。Wǒ hé péngyou zài jiǔbā.I'm with a friend at a bar.
  • 你们 明天 北京 吗?Nǐmen míngtiān zài Běijīng ma?Are you guys in Beijing tomorrow?

See also

Sources and further reading