Indicating location with "zai" before verbs
If you need to include the place where an action takes place, you can use 在 (zài). Just pay close attention to word order, as this is one case in which Chinese word order is quite different from English.
To indicate the location that a verb takes place in, 在 (zài), followed by a location, comes before the verb.
Subj. + 在 + Place + Verb + Obj.
Notice that the location is placed before the verb in Chinese, whereas in English it appears afterwards.
- 我 在 上海 上大学。I went to college in Shanghai.
- 你 一直 在 这 家 公司 工作 吗？Have you always been working in this company?
- 我 周末 想 在 家 睡觉。On the weekend, I want to sleep at home.
- 不 要 在 床 上 吃 东西。In addition to "在" you need a "上" to indicate the location "on the bed." Don't eat food on the bed.
- 你 想 在 哪儿 开 生日 派对？Where do you want to have the birthday party?
- 他 喜欢 在 厕所 里 抽烟。In addition to "在" you need a "里" to indicate the location "in the bathroom." He likes to smoke in the bathroom.
- 很 多 人 在 地铁 上 吃 早饭。In addition to "在" you need a "上" to indicate the location "in the subway." Many people eat breakfast on the subway.
- 现在 我们 在 KTV 唱歌。Now we're singing songs at karaoke.
- 老板 在 会议室 见 客户。The boss is seeing the client in the meeting room.
- 你 在 外面 吃 过 晚饭 了 吗？Did you eat dinner outside?
Remember: in English we usually put the location at the end of a sentence. In Chinese, we put the location after the subject but before the verb.
Getting More Specific with Locations
Rather than just using 在 (zài) to mean "at" a location, you might want to use it to mean "in," "on," or "under" a specific location. To do this, you'll need to add an extra word after the location. Learn about expressing location with "zai... shang / xia / li".
- Expressing existence in a place with "zai"
- Expressing location with "zai... shang / xia / li"
- Special cases of "zai" following verbs
- Complements with "dao," "gei," and "zai"