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The Extended Usages of “起来”(qǐlái ) and “下去”(xiàqu)

You may have already learned the how to use the Directional Verbs “……起来” and “……下去”, but in some situations, how they are supposed to be used doesn’t work very well, for example: “唱起来(chànɡ qǐlái)” and “唱下去(chànɡ xiàqu)”. Of course, this does not really mean “singing to stand up” and “singing to go down”. There are also other, very common ways to use “起来”and “下去” that one can encounter in Chinese people’s daily conversations. Here, we will discuss the basic meanings of “起来”and “下去”,then continue to explain their extended usage. (You can check the detailed summary video about the basic and extended Directional Complements as well as more HSK grammar videos here.)

The basic meanings of “起来” and “下去”

Directional Verbs Basic Meanings Examples


To move from the upper to the lower. 我(从楼上)下去看看发生了什么事。

(Wǒ (cónɡ lóushanɡ) xiàqu kàn kɑn fāshēnɡle shénme shì.)

I went downstairs to see what happened.



To move from the lower to the upper. 不要坐着,请站起来

Bú yào zuòzheqǐnɡ zhàn qǐ lái.

Do not sit, please stand up.

Besides these basic meanings, “起来” and “下去” has some extended usages which are derived from these basic meanings, and which can be difficult for Chinese-learners.

Directional Verbs Usages Examples Others Examples


Generally to be used after verbs, indicating that the action or state that has existed or begun will continue. (From now to the future) 汉语再难,我也要坚持下去

Hànyǔ zài nánwǒ yě yào jiānchí xiàqu.

Though Chinese is difficult, I will still keep on learning it.



To be used after a verb or an adjective, indicating the action or state begins or will keep going on. 听了这个消息,她高兴地跳了起来

(Tīnɡle zhèɡe xiāoxitā ɡāoxìnɡ di tiàole qǐlái.)

Upon hearing about this news, she jumped with delight.


(Chūntiān kuài dàolelùshɑnɡ de xínɡrén jiànjiàn duō qǐlái le.)

Spring is coming, and there are more and more passengers on the road.

When there is an object after the verb, the structure should be “Verb++Object+”. 听到自己能去中国旅游,他高兴地跳

(Tīnɡdào zì jǐ nénɡ qù Zhōnɡɡuó lǚyóutā ɡāoxìnɡ di tiào qǐ wǔ lái.)

He danced with delight after knowing he can travel to China.

To be used after verbs indicating a need to keep attention on a certain aspect. 这种草莓看起来很好,但是吃起来很酸。

(Zhèzhǒnɡ cǎoméi kàn qǐlái hěn hǎodànshì chī qǐlái hěn suān.)

This kind of strawberry looks okay, but it tastes sour.

“看起来”can also indicate “to estimate”.  雨渐渐小了,看起来要天晴了。

(Yǔ jiànjiàn xiǎo lekàn qǐlái yào tiān qínɡ le.)

The rain is subsiding, it looks like it will be sunny.

To be used after verbs, like  “想”,“回忆”,“回想”, “记”etc. , indicating the action has come to a final result. 他想起来了,这个女孩是他的小学同学。

(Tā xiǎnɡ qǐlái lezhèɡe nǚhái  shì tāde xiǎoxué tónɡxué.)

He has remembered that this girl was his classmate from primary school.

Listen well to native Chinese-speakers, and practice all these different ways to use “起来”and “下去”.  By doing so, you will surely add skill and polish to your knowledge and mastery of Chinese.

Cecilia He

Cecilia majored in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. She has vast experience in educating her students on how to listen to and speak Chinese, and is trained to teach HSK courses. She has mastered the method and practice of teaching the structure, historical development, and relationships of languages as an academic subject, and has also done extensive research on Intercultural Communication and Sinology.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi . How do you translate : 这个问题研究起来非常有意思. What does 起来 here stand for ?

    1. “这个问题研究起来非常有意思”: here 起来 is used after the verb 研究 as a complement, indicating the action or state begins or will keep going on.

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