Result complement

Also known as: 结果补语 (jiéguǒ bǔyǔ), complement of result, resultative complement and result compound.

Result complements are a kind of verbal complement that appears very frequently in Chinese. Surprisingly enough, they're used to describe the result of a verb.

Why result complements are necessary in Chinese

In English, we have separate verbs to describe actions depending on their outcome. You can look, but not see, or listen, but not hear. In Chinese, verbs tend to be of the 'look' and 'listen' variety - the result isn't included like it is in 'see' and 'hear'. So if you want to indicate the result, you have to use a result complement.

There are endless examples of these 'attempt' or 'procedure' verbs in Chinese which don't include an outcome. The majority of Chinese verbs are like this, in fact. Some examples:

  • 看 means 'to look' but doesn't include the result 'to see'.
  • 听 means 'to listen' but doesn't include 'to hear'.
  • 写 is similar to the English verb 'to write', in that it doesn't specify what the result of writing was (e.g. whether it was correct or not).
  • 记 describes an attempt to remember, without specifying if the information was forgotten or successfully remembered.
  • 杀 means something like 'to try and kill', whatever the result is.

All of these verbs need a result complement to describe a complete action with its result.

Forming the result complement

Result complements form verbal compounds that behave exactly the same as normal verbs. The compound is formed by a verb plus another verb or an adjective:

Result complement examples
Verb Result compound Explanation
看见 看 alone means 'to look'. 看见 includes the result - 'to see'.
听到 Again, 听 alone means 'to listen', but 听到 means 'to hear'.
写对 Write + correct ⇒ to write something correctly
学会 Study + able ⇒ to master
洗干净 Wash + clean ⇒ to wash something and make it clean

In each of the examples above, a compound verb has been created from a verb plus another verb or adjective. These verb-complement compounds behave like other verbs in terms of taking objects, being modified by adverbs and being negated.

Negating result complements

As compound verbs formed by the result complement behave much the same as other verbs, you can easily negate them as normal using 不 or 没有.

Note that although there are many instances where using 不 with a result complement is grammatical, you don't see it as much as 没有 (remember that 不 negates verbs about the present or future, whereas 没有 is used for things in the past). This makes sense if you think about English verbs. You frequently come across things like "I didn't look" and "I'm not looking" (verbs without a result), but for verbs that include a result you tend to only come across past tense forms - "I didn't see." A sentence like "I'm not seeing" sounds unnatural in most contexts.

Result complement negation
Subject Negative RC compound verb Object
没有 看见
不会 做完 他的作业
没有 找到 小王
没有 考上 大学

Aspect particles with result complements

You can also use the aspect particles 了 and 过 with result complement compound verbs, just as you would with other verbs. 了 nearly always appears with result complements, as 了 marks completed actions, and as you'd expect a result complement is usually about a completed action.

Conversely, you can not use the particle 着 with result compounds, as this would be nonsensical. 着 indicates that an action is ongoing - it wouldn't make sense to describe the result of an ongoing action.

Result complements with aspect particles
Subject RC compound verb Aspect particle Object
看见 那 个 有名的 人
听到 这 个 声音
写错 这 个 汉字

The aspect particle comes after the result complement, as the compound can't be separated. It behaves as a single verb, and can't be divided into separate units.

Result complements and questions

You can form questions with sentences containing result complements just as you would with any other sentence:

  • With a question particle
  • With a question word
  • With positive-negative inversion

Some examples:

  • 你 把 作业 做 完 了 吗 ?Did you finish your work?
  • 看 完 了 那 部 电影 吗 ?Did you finish watching that movie?
  • 谁 能 把 ‘ 打喷嚏 ’ 的 ‘ 嚏 ’ 写 对Who can write the "嚏" in "喷嚏"?
  • 我们 刚才 听到 的 音乐 是 哪个 乐队 的 ?Which band's music did we just hear?
  • 你 有 没有 记住 我的 名字?Did you remember my name?
  • 他 是 不 是 我们 昨天 看到 的 人?Is that the person we saw yesterday?

Common result complement compounds

Remember that a result complement can describe both intentional and unintentional results of a verb. For example, doing things correctly or incorrectly, succeeding, or breaking things can all be described with result complements.

Result complement example compounds
Result Example compounds Example sentence
看见 我 没看见 他 。
听见 我 没 听见 他 说 的 话 。
看到 他 没有 看到 我。
听到 听到 什么 奇怪 的 声音 了 ?
走到 怎么 走到 人民广场?
记住 我 会 记住 你 的 话。
抓住 记者 应该 抓住 事情 的 重点 。
写对 他 什么 汉字 都 能 写对
说对 你 连 最 复杂 的 那 句 话 也 能 说对
写错 好像 这句 话 写错 了 。
做错 我 实习 的 时候 总是 做错 事情
打破 是 谁 打破 了 这 扇 窗户 ?
弄破 你 把 我的 包包 弄破 了 。
找着 找着 那 本 汉语 书 了 吗 ?
睡着 宝宝 很 晚 才 睡着
带上 别 忘 了 带上 你 的 护照。
关上 请 把 门 关上
做完 今天 的 工作 做完 了 吗?
吃完 你 能 吃完 这些 米饭 吗?
打开 打开 窗户 吧,今天 不 冷 了。

Result complements in 把 sentences

You might have noticed that quite a few of the example sentences in this article are 把 sentences. This is because 把 sentences and result complements work particularly well together, as they both deal with the result of an action or the disposal of an object.

Apart from result complements involving perception and psychological verbs, most result compounds work nicely in 把 sentences.

Result complements in 把 sentences
Subject Object RC compound verb
做好 了
这 个 盘子 打破 了
这 本 书 写完 了

See also

Sources and further reading