通过(tōng guò) VS经过(jīng guò): The Many Ways of “Passing Through” in Mandarin

Here is a lesson that is a bit more advanced, and it involves two words that are often thought to have the same meaning and are sometimes used interchangeably. These two words are “通过(tōng guò)” and “经过(jīng guò)”. Even if these two words share similar meanings, there are a few differences in how they can be used.

通过(tōng guò)

  • As a Verb

When “通过(tōng guò)”is used as a verb, it indicates “to pass through some place from one end/side to another end/side”. For example:

This is a pedestrian crossing, vehicles cannot pass through it.

这是一条步行街,汽车不能通过

(Zhè shì yì tiáo bù xíng jiēqì chē bù néng tōng guò.)

 

As a verb, 通过(tōng guò) can also mean “to pass or have reached a certain standard, or met a certain requirement”. For example:

He passed the HSK6 examination.

通过HSK6的考试。

(Tā tōngguò le HSK 6 de kǎoshì.)

 

  • As a Preposition

When used as a preposition, “通过(tōng guò)” means “the attainment of a certain result through another person or by some other external way or manner”. For example:

I found her via her mom.

通过她的妈妈才找到了她。

(Wǒ tōngguò tā de māma cái zhǎo dào le tā.)

 

经过(jīng guò)

  • As a Verb

When used as a verb, “经过(jīng guò)” can mean “to physically pass by”.

For example:

I pass by this flower shop every day.

我每天都经过这个花店。

(wǒ měi tiān dōu jīng guò zhè gè huā diàn.)

 

The verb “经过(jīng guò)” can also mean “to have experienced” or “to undergo something for a time”, and it puts focus on the process of that experience. For example:

I’ve just had a trying trip, very sleepy now.

我刚经过一趟辛苦的旅行,现在很困。

(Wǒ gāng jīngguò yí tàng xīn kǔ de lǚ xíngxiàn zài hěn kùn.)

 

  • As a Noun

As a noun, “经过(jīng guò)” is used to mean “the process or course of development” of something. For example:

We never know the process of this thing.

我们永远不知道这件事情的经过

(Wǒmen yǒngyuǎn bù zhīdào zhè jiàn shìqíng de jīngguò.)

 

Comparing the Similarities and Differences of “通过(tōng guò)” and “经过(jīng guò)”

  • Similarities

Both words can be used to mean the attainment of a certain goal as a result of the influence of someone or something. For example:

After going through the teacher’s explanation, I finally understood this grammar point.

经过/通过老师的解释, 我终于明白了这个语法点。

(Jīngguò / tōngguò lǎo shī de jiěshì, wǒ zhōngyú míngbái le zhè gè yǔfǎ diǎn.)

  • Differences

1、Semantically speaking (which means that if we take the pure meanings of these words), 通过(tōng guò) emphasizes the method or means (of achieving something), while 经过(jīng guò) emphasizes the process. But in this case, 通过(tōng guò) is a preposition, and 经过(jīng guò) is a verb. For example:

a)  His Chinese language improves quickly by making friends with Chinese.

通过交中国朋友,他的汉语水平提高得很快。

(Tōngguò jiāo zhōngguó péngyǒutā de hànyǔ shuǐpíng tígāo dé hěn kuài.)

b)  He finally succeeded after thousands of failures.

经过上千次的失败后,他终于成功了。

(Jīngguò shàng qiān cì de shībài hòutā zhōngyú chénggōng le.)

 

2、When used as a verb, 通过 (tōng guò) means “to pass through someplace from one end/side to another end/side”, while 经过 (jīng guò) means “to go by way of” without having to “pass through” someplace. For example:

c)  Go straight ahead, go through that bridge, then turn right, and you’ll see it.

你往前走,通过那个桥,然后右转就看到了。

(Nǐ wǎng qián zǒu, tōngguò nà gè qiáo, ránhòu yòu zhuǎn, jiù kàn dào le.)

d)  The school bus always goes past the museum on the hour.

校车总是正点经过博物馆。

(Xiào chē zǒngshì zhèng diǎn jīngguò bówùguǎn.)

 

3、As a noun, “经过 (jīng guò)” refers to “the process or course of development” of something, while “通过 (tōng guò)” is not used as a noun. For example:

I forget the process of the thing.

我忘记了事情的 经过.

(Wǒ wàngjì le shìqíng de jīngguò.

 

Practice

Now let’s do some exercises to practice your new knowledge of these two words. Fill in blanks with either “通过” or “经过”.

(1)____这几个月的学习,我的汉语水平提高了很多。

(____zhè jǐ gè yuè de xuéxí, wǒ de hànyǔ shuǐpíng tígāo le hěn duō.)

(2)去公司的路上,我们会____那个公园吗?

(Qù gōng sī de lù shang,wǒ men huì ____nà gè gōng yuán ma)

(3)祝贺你_____了面试。(Zhù hè nǐ _____le miànshì.)

(4)她把事情的_____都告诉我了。(Tā bǎ shìqíng de _____dōu gàosù wǒ le.)

(5)我们应该____运动来减肥。(Wǒmen yīnggāi ____yùndòng lái jiǎnféi.)

(6)会议室在前面,_____一扇大门,左边就是。(Huìyì shì zài qián miàn,_____yí shàn dà mén,zuǒ biān jiù shì.)

Rita Zhang

Rita is a professional Mandarin teacher, has been teaching more than 8 years. She enjoys digging more about Chinese grammar and culture work and helping more learners. Now she is working at the one-on-one online Chinese school TouchChinese.