Aspect particle "zhe"

The particle 着 (zhe) is one way of indicating the continuous aspect in Mandarin Chinese (another common way is using the adverb 在 in front of verbs). You may have heard that the Chinese particle 着 added onto the end of verbs is similar to the use of -ing in English. This isn't particularly helpful, however, because the use of 着 in Chinese is not nearly so commonly used, and can also be quite idiomatic.

Basic Usage

The main idea here is that the action won't just happen and stop immediately; it will continue for a while.


Verb + 着


This basic pattern is often used with commands involving certain verbs where the action persists for a while.

  • 我 读 ,你 听 Wǒ dú, nǐ tīng zhe.I'll read, and you listen.
  • 我们 做 ,你们 看 Wǒmen zuò, nǐmen kàn zhe.We will do it, and you all watch.
  • 你们 坐 ,我 马上 回来 。Nǐmen zuò zhe, wǒ mǎshàng huílái.Sit for a while. I'll be right back.
  • 我 出去 一下 ,你 帮 我 看 行李 。Wǒ chūqù yīxià, nǐ bāng wǒ kān zhe xíngli.I'll go out for a second, and you watch the luggage for me.

Used for Manner or State in which an Action is Performed

This pattern is used when you want to use one verb to describe how another action is performed.


Verb 1 + 着 + Verb 2

Note that the first verb (followed by 着) describes the state; the second verb is the action verb. In this case, the "-ing" translation can be useful for the state.


  • 她 喜欢 站 吃饭 。"standing + eat = eating while standing"Tā xǐhuan zhàn zhe chīfàn.She likes to eat standing up.
  • 他 笑 说 “对不起” 。"smiling + say = saying "I'm sorry" while smilingTā xiào zhe shuō "duìbuqǐ".Smiling, he said, "I'm sorry."
  • 孩子 抱 爸爸 哭 了 起来 。"hugging + cry = crying while huggingHáizi bào zhe bàba kū le qǐlái.Hugging his daddy, the child started to cry.

Note: If you want to make a sentence where both verbs are action verbs (neither is truly a state), then you don't want this pattern; you want 一边⋯⋯,一边⋯⋯ (yībiān..., yībiān...).

Used for Continuous State

While it's true that the "full progressive pattern" can make use of 着, this is not a pattern you're going to want to use all the time.

Usage Examples

The verbs most commonly used with 着 are the ones below:

  • 开 (kāi) alone can mean "to open" or "to turn on." Adding 着 allows one to express that something "is open" or "is on."
  • 关 (guān) alone can mean "to close" or "to turn off." Adding 着 allows one to express that something "is closed" or "is off."
  • 穿 (chuān) alone means "to wear." Adding 着 allows one to express that one "is wearing" something (on one's person).
  • 戴 (dài) alone means "to wear" (an accessory). Adding 着 allows one to express that one "is wearing" a hat, jewelry, or accessory (on one's person).
  • 躺 (tǎng) alone means "to lie on one's back." Adding 着 allows one to express that someone "is lying down."

Sentence Examples

  • 公司 的 门 开 ,可是 没 人 在 。"Being open" is a state, so using 着 is natural.)Gōngsī de mén kāi zhe, kěshì méi rén zài.The office door is open but no one is in there.
  • 公司 的 门 开 ,可是 没 人 在 。"Being open" is not an action, so don't use 在.)Gōngsī de mén zài kāi, kěshì méi rén zài.
  • 她 穿 一 条 小 黑 裙 。"Be wearing" is a state, so using 着 is natural.)Tā chuān zhe yī tiáo xiǎo hēi qún.She's wearing a little black dress.
  • 穿 一 条 小 黑 裙 。"Be wearing" is not an action, so don't use 在.)zài chuān yī tiáo xiǎo hēi qún.
  • 最 舒服 。"Lying down" is a state, so using 着 is natural.)Tǎng zhe zuì shūfu.It's most comfortable just lying down.
  • 躺 最 舒服 。"Lying here" is not strictly an action, so don't use 在.)Zài tǎng zuì shūfu.

Colloquial Sayings

Certain verbs tend to take 着 more frequently than others, and what the 着 exactly is doing might not be apparent at all. It's best to think of these usages as set phrases.


  •  ! "to listen and keep listening"Tīng zhe!
  • 别 客气 ,拿 吧 。"to take and keep it"Bié kèqi, ná zhe ba.
  • 你们 等  ! "to wait and keeping waiting"Nǐmen děng zhe!

Verb + 着 + 玩 "For Fun"

There's also one colloquial usage of 着 that's often chosen for special treatment by Chinese textbooks, so we'll cover it here as well:

Subj. + 是 + Verb + 着 + 玩 + 的

This pattern may look like that "doing an action in a particular state" pattern already covered above, but in practice it doesn't really work that way. It just means "[Verb] for fun" or "[Verb] as a joke."

Examples of Verb + 着 + 玩

  • 你 不要 生气 ,我 是 说 玩 的 。Nǐ bùyào shēngqì, wǒ shì shuō zhe wán de!Don't be mad. I was just joking.
  • 我 听不懂 英文 歌 ,只 是 听 玩 的 。Wǒ tīng bu dǒng Yīngwén gē, zhǐshì tīng zhe wán de.I don't understand English songs. I just listen to them for fun.

See also

Sources and further reading