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Expressing distance with "li"

Are we there yet? One of the ways to express distance is to use 离 (lí). The word order might seem a little tricky at first, but once you get it down, you'll be able to talk about distance with no problem.

Using 离 (lí) in a Statement

Structure

Unless you're talking about a very specific distance, you'll normally want to pair 离 (lí) with the adjective 近 (jìn) for "close," or 远 (yuǎn) for "far."

Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 + Adv. + 近 / 远

So this pattern is normally used to simply express that one place is (not) close or (not) far from another place. Easy, right? It's learning the sentence pattern that usually trips learners up, because it doesn't feel like natural word order to a speaker of English.

Examples

  • 我 家 公司 很 近。Wǒ jiā gōngsī hěn jìn.My house is close to my office.
  • 美国 中国 很 远。Měiguó Zhōngguó hěn yuǎn.The USA is far from China.
  • 这 个 酒店 火车站 很 近。 Zhège jiǔdiàn huǒchēzhàn hěn jìn.This hotel is very close to the train station.
  • 那 个 酒吧 这儿 太 远 了, 我 不 想 去。 Nàge jiǔbā zhèr tài yuǎn le, wǒ bù xiǎng qù.That bar is too far away from here. I don't want to go.
  • 我 不想 去 家 很 远 的 地方 工作。Wǒ bù xiǎng qù jiā hěn yuǎn de dìfang gōngzuò.I don't want to go work at a place very far away from home.

Using 离 (lí) in a Question

Structure

These two sentence patterns are extremely common in everyday conversations when discussing distances.

Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 (+ Adv.) + 近 / 远 + 吗?

Place 1 + 离 + Place 2 (+ 有) + 多远?

Note that in English, you can actually ask, "How close is it from here?" if the distance is obviously short. But in Chinese it's just, "How far is it from here?"

Examples

  • 你家 超市 远 吗? Nǐ jiā chāoshì yuǎn ma?Is your house far away from the supermarket?
  • 你 的 大学 你 老家 很 远 吗?Nǐ de dàxué nǐ lǎojiā hěn yuǎn ma?Is your college very far away from your hometown?
  • 你们 公司 地铁站 近 吗?Nǐmen gōngsī dìtiězhàn jìn ma? Is your company close to the metro station?
  • 你 家 学校 多远?Nǐ jiā xuéxiào duō yuǎn?How far is it from your home to school?
  • 这个 酒店 机场 有 多远?Zhège jiǔdiàn jīchǎng yǒu duō yuǎn? How far is it from this hotel to the airport?

Expressing "Stay Away from Me" with 离 (lí)

One final example is a command, commonly heard in colloquial Chinese:

  • 我 远 点 儿 ! wǒ yuǎn diǎnr!Stay away from me.

It's a somewhat atypical usage when compared with the others, because it uses two people rather than two places. The sentence literally means, "Distance yourself from me further." In other words, "Stay away from me," or "Don't come near me."

See Also

Sources and further reading

Books