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Direction complement

Also known as: 趋向补语 (qūxiàng bǔyǔ), directional complement and complement of direction.

A direction complement is a complement used to describe the direction of a verb. A verb already has some inherent movement implied; adding a direction complement clearly shows where exactly that action is going.

Simple Direction Complement

The most basic (and common) form of direction complement is formed by a verb and 来 or 去:

Verb + 来 / 去

The most important thing to consider with direction complements is the position of the speaker. If the action moves towards the speaker or comes closer in any way, use 来. If the action moves away from the speaker or becomes more distant in any way, use 去.

Verb + Complement Explanation
下来xiàlái The movement is down towards the speaker: "come down"
下去xiàqù The movement is down away from the speaker: "go down"
上来shànglái The movement is up towards the speaker: "come up"
上去shàngqù The movement is up and away from the speaker: "go up"
出来chūlái The movement is out and towards the speaker: "come out"
出去chūqù The movement is out and away from the speaker: "go out"
进来jìnlái The movement is in and towards the speaker: "come in"
进去jìnqù The movement is in and away from the speaker: "go in"
回来huílái The movement is towards the speaker: "come back"
回去huíqù The movement is away from the speaker: "go back"

You might be wondering how the directional distinction between 来 and 去 works when you're talking about yourself moving. You can't move away from or towards yourself, so should it be 来 or 去? The answer is to look at the context of the movement you're talking about. Are you telling someone you'll see them tomorrow? Similar to English, in Chinese you'd say something like "I'll come and see you tomorrow."

Examples

You can use these simple compounds in a huge variety of situations. Here are some examples:

  • A: 我 在 楼上 ,你 上来Wǒ zài lóushàng, nǐ shànglái.I'm on the upper floor. Come up to me.
  • B: 你 在 楼上 等 我 一下 。我 一会儿 就 上去Nǐ zài lóushàng děng wǒ yīxià. Wǒ yīhuìr jiù shàngqù.Please wait a moment on the upper floor. I'll come up in a few minutes.
  • A: 出来 玩 吧 ,我们 在 酒吧 等 你 。Chūlái wán ba, wǒmen zài jiǔbā děng nǐ.Come and hang out with us. We'll be waiting in the bar.
  • B: 我 妈 不 让 我 出去B: Wǒ mā bù ràng wǒ chūqù.B: My mother won't let me go out.
  • A: 这 是 我家 ,进来 吧 ,随便 坐 。Zhè shì wǒ jiā, jìnlái ba, suíbiàn zuò.This is my house. Please come inside. Feel free to take a seat.
  • B: 那 是 你 的 卧室 吗 ?我 能 进去 吗 ?Nà shì nǐ de wòshì ma? Wǒ néng jìnqù ma?Is that your bedroom? Can I go in?
  • A: 你 下班 了 吗 ?几点 回来 吃饭 ?Nǐ xiàbān le ma? Jǐ diǎn huílái chīfàn?Are you off work now? When are you coming back for dinner?
  • B: 我 今天 不 回去 吃饭 。Wǒ jīntiān bù huíqù chīfàn.I'm not going back home for dinner today.

Adding a place with 到

Direction complements are very useful for talking about arriving at destinations. The structure for this is:

到 + Place + 来 / 去

Notice that you separate the verb from its direction complement. The location goes in between the two.

A few examples:

  • 我 下午 在 家 ,你 可以 我家 Wǒ xiàwǔ zài jiā, nǐ kěyǐ dào wǒ jiā lái.I'm home this afternoon. You can come to my house.
  • 老板 让 你 马上 他 办公室 Lǎobǎn ràng nǐ mǎshàng dào tā bàngōngshì .The boss is asking you to go over to his office right now.

Compound Direction Complements

Direction complements can be more complex than just 来 or 去. You can form compound direction complements in the following way:

上来 下来 进来 出来 回来 过来 起来
上去 下去 进去 出去 回去 过去

Many Chinese learners say 回来中国 or 回去美国 but these are both wrong. The correct way to say this is 回中国来 or 回美国去, because 回 is the verb, 来 and 去 are the directional complement. In spoken language, if the context is clear, people often omit 来,去 and only say 回美国 or 回中国.

These compounds can then be used in the same way as 来 and 去. Attach them to verbs to give detail about the direction of the action.

Structure

Verb + [Compound Direction Complement]

Examples

  • 请 站 起来Qǐng zhàn qǐlái.Please stand up.
  • 不要 让 它 跑 出去Bùyào ràng tā pǎo chūqù.Don't let it run out.
  • 从 我 家 走 过来 要 半 个 小时 。Cóng wǒ jiā zǒu guòlái yào bàn gè xiǎoshí. It took me half an hour to walk here from my place.
  • 你 包里 的 东西 都 拿 出来 了 吗 ?Nǐ bāo lǐ de dōngxi dōu ná chūlái le ma?Did you take all your stuff out of your bag?

Direction Complements with Objects

Direction complements are not only used to describe the movement of people. Moving objects can also be described with direction complements. Again, the direction of the movement relative to the speaker (or at least to the context of the conversation) is important when deciding what complement to use.

These verbs that commonly appear in this construction include 拿, 送, and 带.

Some examples:

  • 服务员 ,请 再 拿 几 个 碗 Fúwùyuán, qǐng zài ná jǐ gè wǎn lái.Waiter, please bring a few more bowls.
  • 快点 送 孩子 吧 ,别 迟到 了 。Kuàidiǎn sòng háizi ba, bié chídào le.Hurry up, send the kids off. Don't be late.
  • 师傅 ,送 两 桶 水 Shīfu, sòng liǎng tǒng shuǐ lái.Shifu, please deliver two buckets of water.
  • 可以 带 朋友 吗 ?Kěyǐ dài péngyou lái ma?Can I bring some friends?
  • 他们 带 了 一些 礼物 Tāmen dài le yīxiē lǐwù .They took some presents there.

Direction Complements with 把

Direction complements work very well in 把 sentences, as they can be used to describe the disposal of an object (what happened to it in the end). Because of this, it's very common to see direction complements and 把 appearing together.

Structure

Subj. + 把 + Obj. + Verb + [Direction Complement]

Examples

  • 拿 出来 shū ná chūlái.Please take out your book.
  • 举 起来 shǒu jǔ qǐlái.Raise your hands.
  • 帮 我 这个 箱子 搬 过去Bāng wǒ zhège xiāngzi bān guòqù.Please help me move this suitcase over there.

See also: 把 sentences

Compared with Potential Complement

Adding 得 to directional complements makes the phrase an affirmative potential complement. Adding 不 makes the phrase a negative potential complement.

Direction and Potential Complements
Directional Complement Aff. Potential Complement Neg. Potential Complement
回 去
过 来
站 起来 起来 起来
爬 上去 上去 上去
开 进去 进去 进去
拿 出来 出来 出来

Additional Meanings

A lot of direction complements, particularly compound direction complements, have additional idiomatic meanings beyond literally describing the direction of an action. The most common of these are:

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

Websites

Videos

Yoyo Chinese: Introduction to complement of direction