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Aspect particle "zhe"

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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 frequent, and can also be quite idiomatic.

Basic Usage

Structure

Verb + 着

Examples

  • 我 读 ,你 听 Wǒ dú, nǐ tīng zhe.I'll read, and you will listen.
  • 我们 做 ,你们 看 Wǒmen zuò, nǐmen kàn zhe.We will do it, and you will watch.
  • 你们 坐 ,我 马上 回来 。Nǐmen zuò zhe, wǒ mǎshàng huílái.Sit here. 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

Structure

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.

Examples

  • 她 喜欢 站 吃饭 。"standing + eat = eating while standing"Tā xǐhuan zhàn zhe chīfàn.
  • 他 笑 说 “对不起” 。"smiling + say = saying "I'm sorry" while smilingTā xiào zhe shuō "duìbuqǐ".
  • 孩子 抱 爸爸 哭 了 起来 。"hugging + cry = crying while huggingHáizi bào zhe bàba kū le qǐlái.

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⋯⋯.

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. The most commonly used verbs 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" or "has" something (on one's person).
  • 戴 (dài) alone means "to wear." Adding 着 allows one to express that one "is wearing" or "has" something (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."

Examples

  • 公司 的 门 开 ,可是 没 人 在 。"Being on" is a state, so using 着 is natural.)Gōngsī de mén kāi zhe, kěshì méi rén zài.The company's 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 here" is a state, so using 着 is natural.)Tǎng zhe zuì shūfu.It makes me most comfortable just lying there.
  • 躺 最 舒服 。"Lying here" is not strictly an action, so don't use 在.)Zài tǎng zuì shūfu.

Colloquial Saying

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

Examples of this usage:

  •  ! "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!

There's also one colloquial usage of 着 that's been chosen by at least one textbook for special treatment, 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 this usage:

  • 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 listen just for fun.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

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