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.
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.
- 捡 起来。Pick it up (from the floor).
- 头 抬 起来 。Raise your head.
- 别动 ！把 手 举 起来 。Don't move! Put your hands up.
Used for 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
- 小鸟 飞 起来 了 。The birds started flying.
- 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 getting hot.
- 结婚 以后 ，她 胖 起来 了 。After she got married, she has started to gain weight.
- 爷爷 的 身体 好 起来 了 。Grandpa's health is getting better.
When used like this, 起来 is only used with spontaneous actions, like 唱 (chàng), 跳 (tiào), 聊 (liáo), or with states like 热 (rè), 冷 (lěng), or 好 (hǎo) etc. It cannot be used with planned actions.
- 我们 做饭 起来 吧。
- 我们 开始 做饭 吧 。Let's start cooking.
It can also used as a way to encourage people to start doing something immediately:
- 大家 唱 起来 ，跳 起来 ! Let's sing and dance!
Used for an Initial Judgement
起来 is used here to express that the speaker has only just initiated an action, and based on that, has made a preliminary judgment. It is used in the following structure:
Subj. + Verb + 起来 + Adv. + 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, 闻, 摸, etc.
- 他 看 起来 很 友好 。He looks very friendly.
- 你 的 头发 闻 起来 很 香 。Your hair smells good.
- 这 件 事情 听 起来 有点 复杂 。This matter sounds a little bit complex.
- 这些 菜 尝 起来 都 不错 。These foods all taste good.
- 你 的 床 摸 起来 很 舒服 。Your bed feels very comfortable.
- Result complement "xiaqu"
- Advanced result complements
- Direction complement
- Appearance with "kanqilai"
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 (pp. 20) →buy
- HSK Standard Course 5上 (pp. 36) →buy