- 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. Verbs often already have some inherent movement implied, but by adding a direction complement, it becomes clearer where, exactly, that action is going.
- 1 Simple Direction Complement
- 2 Compound Direction Complements
- 3 Direction Complements with Objects
- 4 Direction Complements with 把
- 5 Converting to Potential Complement
- 6 Additional Meanings
- 7 See also
- 8 Sources and further reading
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.
|下||下来||The movement is down towards the speaker: "come down"|
|下||下去||The movement is down away from the speaker: "go down"|
|上||上来||The movement is up towards the speaker: "come up"|
|上||上去||The movement is up and away from the speaker: "go up"|
|出||出来||The movement is out and towards the speaker: "come out"|
|出||出去||The movement is out and away from the speaker: "go out"|
|进||进来||The movement is in and towards the speaker: "come in"|
|进||进去||The movement is in and away from the speaker: "go in"|
|回||回来||The movement is towards the speaker: "come back"|
|回||回去||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."
You can use these simple compounds in a huge variety of situations. Here are some example dialogs to provide a little more context:
- A: 我 在 楼上 ，你 上来 。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 。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 。Come and hang out with us. We'll be waiting in the bar.
- B: 我 妈 不 让 我 出去 。My mother won't let me go out.
- A: 这 是 我家 ，进来 吧 ，随便 坐 。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 ？Is that your bedroom? Can I go in?
- A: 你 下班 了 吗 ？几点 回来 吃饭 ？Are you off work now? When are you coming back for dinner?
- B: 我 今天 不 回去 吃饭 。I'm not going back home for dinner today.
Compound Direction Complements
Direction complements can be more complex than just 来 or 去.
Forming Compound Direction Complements
You can form compound direction complements in the following way:
These compounds can then be used in much the same way as 来 and 去. Attach them to verbs to give detail about the direction of the action.
Verb + [Compound Direction Complement]
- 请 站 起来 。Please stand up.
- 不要 让 它 跑 出去 。Don't let it run out.
- 从 我 家 走 过来 要 半 个 小时 。It took me half an hour to walk here from my place.
- 你 包里 的 东西 都 拿 出来 了 吗 ？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.
The verbs that commonly appear in this construction include 拿, 送, and 带.
Verb + Object + Complement
- 服务员 ，请 再 拿 几 个 碗 来 。Waiter, please bring a few more bowls.
- 快点 送 孩子 去 吧 ，别 迟到 了 。Hurry up, send the kids off. Don't be late.
- 师傅 ，送 两 桶 水 来 。Shifu, please deliver two buckets of water.
- 可以 带 朋友 过来 吗 ？Can I bring some friends over?
- 他们 带 了 一些 礼物 回去 。They took some presents back with them.
Although 回来 and 回去 can be compound complements, they can each also just be the verb 回 with a simple direction complement. Many Chinese learners make the following mistakes:
- 回中国来come back to China
- 回美国去go back to the USA
You can't say 回来中国 because 回 is the verb, 来 is the complement, and 中国 is the object. You can't put both a complement and an object after a single verb, but it's OK to put just a 来 or 去 after the object. In spoken language, if the context is clear, people often omit 来 or 去 and only say 回美国 or 回中国.
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.
Subj. + 把 + Obj. + Verb + [Direction Complement]
- 把 书 拿 出来 。Take out your book.
- 把 手 举 起来 。Raise your hands.
- 帮 我 把 这个 箱子 搬 过去 。Help me move this suitcase over there.
See also: 把 sentences
Converting to Potential Complement
Adding 得 to directional complements makes the phrase an affirmative potential complement. Adding 不 makes the phrase a negative potential complement.
| Aff. Potential
| Neg. Potential|
|回 去||回 得 去||回 不 去|
|过 来||过 得 来||过 不 来|
|站 起来||站 得 起来||站 不 起来|
|走 上去||走 得 上去||走 不 上去|
|开 进去||开 得 进去||开 不 进去|
|拿 出来||拿 得 出来||拿 不 出来|
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:
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 3 (pp. 14, 110) →buy
- HSK Standard Course 4下 (pp. 118) →buy
- A Practical Chinese Grammar For Foreigners (外国人实用汉语语法) (pp. 302-17) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (pp. 165) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 185-9) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 1 (pp. 267-8) →buy
- Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (pp. 58-65) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 40-1, 197-8) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课下册） (pp. 313-4) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (pp. 238-9, 255) →buy
- HSK Standard Course 5上 (pp. 90) →buy
- Mandarin Essential Grammar (Yale): Directional Complements
- Yoyo Chinese: Introduction to complement of direction