Direction complement "-qilai"
起来 (qǐlái) comes up very frequently in Chinese and can be used both literally and figuratively. This is a little like the usage of "up" in English which can be used literally, as in "stand up," or figuratively, as in "add up." When used figuratively, 起来 often serves as a direction complement.
Expressing an upward movement
起来 can be used to express an upward movement like "up," as in the English examples of "stand up" or "pick up."
Verb + 起来
- 请 大家 站 起来 。Everyone, please stand up.
- 快 把 地上 的 书 捡 起来。Quickly pick up the books on the floor.
- 你 怎么 不 把 老人 扶 起来 ？ Why didn't you keep the old man upright?
- 别 动 ！ 把 手 举 起来 。 Don't move! Put your hands up.
Expressing initiation of an action
起来 can also be used to show that an action or state has started and is ongoing:
Verb / Adj. + 起来 +了
- 大家 笑 起来 了 。 Everyone started laughing.
- 宝宝 哭 起来 了 。 The baby started crying.
- 两 个 大妈 吵 起来 了 。 Two middle-aged ladies started arguing.
- 天气 热 起来 了 。 It's starting to get hot.
- 他 的 病 好 起来了 。 His illness is starting to get better.
When used like this, 起来 is only used with spontaneous actions, like 唱, 跳, 聊, or with states like 热, 冷, or 好 etc. It cannot be used with planned actions.
- 我们 做饭 起来 吧。
- 我们 开始 做饭 吧。
Expressing an initial judgement
起来 can also be used to express a preliminary judgement. 起来 is used here to express that the speaker has only just initiated an action, and based on that, has made a quick judgement. It is used in the following structure:
Subj. + Verb + 起来 + Adj.
This expresses that the subject seems adjective when the action of the verb is performed. This structure is frequently used with perception verbs such as 看, 听, 尝 etc.
- 他 看 起来 很 友好。He looks very friendly.
- 这 件 事情 听 起来 有点 复杂。This matter sounds a little bit complex.
- 你 点 的 菜 尝 起来 不错。The dishes that you ordered taste good .
- 这 件 衣服 摸 起来 很 舒服。These clothes feel very comfortable.
Sources and further reading
- Chinese Grammar - Broken down into 100 items - Basic and Intermediate Levels (汉语语法百项讲练 - 初中级) (pp. 25-31) →buy
- Boya Chinese Elementary Starter 2 (博雅汉语初经起步篇) (pp. 80)→buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 5 (新实用汉语课本5) (pp. 134-5)→buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课下册） (pp. 355-6)→buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 2 (p. 20) →buy