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Comparing "li" and "cong"

Both 离 (lí) and 从 (cóng) can be translated into English as "from." In Chinese, however, their meanings are different. 从 is used in cases where the subject's position relative to a fixed location changes. 离 expresses a "static" distance, or a distance that is unchanging. Both can be used in defining distance or time, however 从 has more meanings than 离.

从 as "from" (Time or Event)

Structure

从 + Time / Event + 开始 / 起

Examples

  • 下 个 月 ,公司 会 越来越 忙 。Cóng xiàge yuè , gōngsī huì yuèláiyuè máng.Starting from next month, the company will be busier and busier.
  • 我 上 小学 开始,就 特别 喜欢 画画 。Cóng wǒ shàng xiǎoxué kāishǐ, jiù tèbié xǐhuan huà huà.I have really liked drawing since starting elementary school.

Colloquial Sayings

从那以后 means "ever since then," while 从今以后 means "from now on."

A few examples:

  • 从 那 以后 ,我们 就 没有 联系 了 。Cóng nà yǐhòu, wǒmen jiù méiyǒu liánxì le.Ever since then, we haven't been in touch.
  • 从 今 以后 ,我 不用 再 加班 了 。Cóng jīn yǐhòu, wǒ bùyòng zài jiābān le.I don't need to work late from now on.

从 as "From" (a Place, Somebody, or Something)

Structure

从 + Place + 上 / 里

Examples

  • 你 是 不 是 我 包 里 拿 了 一百块钱 ?Nǐ shì bu shì cóng wǒ bāo lǐ ná le yī bǎi kuài qián?Did you take one hundred RMB from my purse?
  • 他 身上 学到 了 很多 东西 。cóng tā shēnshang xuédào le hěn duō dōngxi.I learned a lot from him.
  • 这 件 事 可以 看出 你 的 工作 态度 。Cóng zhè jiàn shì kěyǐ kànchū nǐ de gōngzuò tàidu.From this incident, we can see your attitude toward work.

离 as "Distance from"

Structure

Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 + 远 / 近

Examples

  • 你 家 公司 多 远Nǐ jiā gōngsī duō yuǎn?How far is your home from your company?
  • 我 家 公司 很 远Wǒ jiā gōngsī hěn yuǎn.My home is far from my office.

Try not to say:

  • 我 家 很 远 公司 。Wǒ jiā hěn yuǎn cóng gōngsī.
  • 我 家 公司 很 远Wǒ jiā cóng gōngsī hěn yuǎn.

离 as "From" (a Time or Event)

Structure

Past Event 1 + 离 + Time + Duration

If you want to say "from now," try this pattern:

离 + Future Event + 还有 + Duration

Examples

  • 上次 见面 今天 快 十 年 了 。Shàng cì jiànmiàn jīntiān kuài shí nián le.It's been about 10 years since we met last time.
  • 我们 的 婚礼 还有 两个 星期 。 wǒmen de hūnlǐ háiyǒu liǎng gè xīngqī.We still have two weeks until our wedding.
  • 毕业 还有 几 个 月 。 bìyè háiyǒu jǐ gè yuè.I am a few months away from graduation.

Colloquial Saying 离⋯⋯还远呢

离⋯⋯还远呢 expresses that something is very far off in terms of time.

  • 我们 刚刚 开始 谈 恋爱 , 结婚 还远 呢 。Wǒmen gānggāng kāishǐ tán liàn’ài, jiéhūn háiyuǎn ne.We've just started our relationship. It's too soon to talk about marriage.

Sources and further reading

Books

HSK4