Result complements "dao" and "jian"
Two of the most common result complements in Chinese are 到 (dào) and 见 (jiàn). On this page we're only going to be talking about verbs related to the senses ("see," hear," etc.), and for this usage, the two are interchangeable.
Verb with "到" and "见"
Result complements are a huge topic in Chinese grammar, but you can approach them in stages. The structure you come across the most is a verb with 到 (dào):
Subj. + Verb + 到 + Obj.
What 到 (dào) does is indicate that the outcome of the verb is achieved - what its result is. Without a result complement, the sentence would describe only the action itself. To illustrate, 看 (kàn) "to look" is the action of turning your head in a particular direction and focusing your eyes, whereas 看到 (kàn dào)," to see," is the result of your brain taking in the visual input. It may sound a little hokey, but it really is possible to "look but not see," and Chinese makes a clear distinction between the action and the result.
The complement 见 (jiàn) is very similar to 到 (dào), and it is used in the same way:
Subj. + Verb + 见 + Obj.
However, there is a difference. 见 (jiàn) is generally only used after verbs involving one of the senses, like 听 (tīng) and 看 (kàn), whereas 到 (dào) can be attached to a large variety of verbs (which we will discuss at a higher level later.
- 你 看 见 那 个 帅哥 了 吗 ？ Did you see that handsome boy?
- 你 看 到 那 个 帅哥 了 吗 ？ Did you see that handsome boy?
- 我 看 见 了 。 We didn't say what "I" saw; you have to base it on context. I saw him.
- 我 看 到 了 。 I saw him.
- 你 听 见 了 吗 ？ Did you hear it?
- 你 听 到 了 吗 ？ Did you hear it?
Subj. + 没 + Verb + 到 / 见 + Obj.
This structure can be negated using 没 (méi).
- 你 没 看 到 那 个 帅哥 吗 ？ You didn't see that handsome guy?
- 你 没 看 见 那 个 帅哥 吗 ？ You didn't see that handsome guy?
- 我 没有 看 到 。 I didn't see him.
- 我 没有 看 见 。 We didn't say what "I" didn't see; you have to base it on context. I didn't see him.
- 你 没 听 到 吗 ？ You didn't hear it?
- 你 没 听 见 吗 ？ You didn't hear it?
Sources and further reading
- Short-term Spoken Chinese: Threshold Vol. 2 (汉语口语入门篇下) (p. 92) →buy
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (p. 109) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (pp. 205-6)→buy