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The Chinese Way to Use ‘make’

When I learned English, ‘make’ was a verb, which always confused me. For me, there are too many meanings of ‘make’ and some of them are quite different in Chinese. So today let’s look at the usages of ‘make’ in Chinese.

做(zuò)- make

‘Make’ in Chinese is translated into 做(zuò) in many cases. It’s like ‘to do’, or ‘to produce’. As English, it’s a verb, which in most cases, it means ‘to produce something’. For example:

  • ‘make a cake’- ‘做蛋糕’(zuò dàn gāo);
  • ‘make a dress’ – ‘做裙子’(zuò qún zi).

In our daily life, we also use the phrase ‘make something into another thing’ often. For this phrase in Chinese, we also use 做(zuò). The structure of this phrasing is: A+是+B +做的 (zuò de) like the following phrases.

  • ‘这是什么做的?’ (zhè shì shén me zuò de ?) – ‘What is this made for/of?’
  • ‘这是面粉做的。’(zhè shì miàn fěn zuò de.) – ‘ This is made of flour.’

让(ràng) & 使 (shǐ)– make

Another translation of ‘make’ in Chinese is ‘让(ràng)’. Here is the way you would use it in Chinese:

The English structure is almost same in Chinese. Just remember to use the verb ‘让(rang)’. Another verb ‘使(shǐ)’ can be used in this structure to convey the same meaning. It could be ‘使(shǐ)+ somebody + adj/do’. Here are some examples of how both verbs can be used.

  • ‘make me happy’ – ‘让我高兴’(ràng wǒ gāo xìng)
  • ‘make him sad’ – ‘让他伤心’(ràng tā shāng xīn)
  • ‘make her angry’ – ‘使她生气’(shǐ tā shēng qì)
  • ‘make him do homework.’ – ‘让他做作业’(ràng tā zuò zuò yè)
  • ‘make him learn Chinese’ – ‘使他学汉语’(shǐ tā xué hàn yǔ)

‘做(zuò)’, ‘让(rang)’, ‘使(shǐ)’ are three verbs used in a structure which mean ‘make’. However in Chinese, there are some other verbs also mean ‘make’ in certain specific situations. Let’s look at a few verbs examples.

预约(yù yuē) – to make an appointment

If you need to make an appointment, ‘预约(yù yuē)’ is the verb to use. This is the how you would use this in Chinese: ‘预约 + something’. For instance:

  • ‘make a doctor appointment’ – ‘预约看医生’(yù yuē kàn yī shēng).
  • ‘ make a SPA appointment’ – ‘预约做SPA’(yù yuē zuò SPA).

泡茶(pào chá)– make tea

If you make or cook food, ‘做(zuò)’ is fine for most cases. But if it is a beverage you are making, such as tea or coffee, then the verb should be ‘泡(pào )’ which is like ‘soak’.

  • ‘make tea’ – ‘泡茶’(pào chá)
  • ‘make coffee’ – ‘泡咖啡’(pào kā fēi).

铺床(pū chuáng) – make a bed

The last but not the least one is 铺床(pū chuáng)’-‘make a bed’. I’ve never gotten how you could ‘make’ your bed. It sounds like you are creating a bed from scratch. In Chinese we use ‘铺(pū)’ for making the bed which literally it means ‘spread’. Since you need spread the sheets and blanket in order to make your bed, right?

That’s all for today. I hope you this clear up how to use “make” in Chinese. Put these words to use and I hope you will never be confused with ‘make’ next time.

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Vera Zhang

After graduating from East China Normal University in 2005, Vera Zhang (张晓丽) started her career in teaching Chinese as a second language. Her first teaching job was teaching high school Chinese in Philippines and realized how much she loved this job. In 2007, she came back Shanghai and spent 7 years in ChinesePod. During that, she also went to America to learn language learning knowledge and curriculum editing by teaching in a high school. Now she works in a start-up company and has developed a new Chinese learning app-HelloChinese. She hopes she can share her knowledge in Chinese and make Chinese learning easy and fun.

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