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Understanding Sentences with Serial Verb Phrases in Chinese

In this article, we are going to focus on ‘连动句(lián dòng jù)’, which are Sentences with Serial Verb Phrases, the last of the special sentences in Mandarin. This kind of sentence structure is widely used in oral and written Chinese to express a reason for, purpose, or way of doing something, and closely reflects the way of thinking in Chinese culture.

Sentences with Serial Verb Phrases consist of two or more Verbs or Verbal phrases which are predicative of the same Subject. Its basic form is

‘Subject+ Verb1+(Object1)+Verb2+ (Object2)’

but each part of the structure has a different intent, which are as follows:

1. Verb 1 indicates the ‘means or manner’ of Verb 2.

E.g.

1)我开车去超市。(Wǒ kāi chē qù chāoshì.)

          I drive the car to go to the supermarket.

2)我们用筷子吃饭。(Wǒmen yònɡ kuàizi chīfàn.)

          We use chopsticks to eat.

2. Verb 2 indicates the ‘purpose’ of Verb 1.

E.g.

1)他去公园玩。(Tā qù ɡōnɡyuán wán.)

          He goes to the park to play.

2)奶奶上街买菜。(Nǎinɑi shànɡjiē mǎi cài.)

          Grandma went to the market to buy food.

3. Verb 2 indicates the ‘result’ of Verb 1.

E.g.

1)我听了很高兴。(Wǒ tīnɡ le hěn ɡāo xìnɡ.)

          I’m so happy after hearing it.

2)弟弟生病住院了。(Dìdi shēnɡbìnɡ zhùyuàn le.)

           Younger brother has been sick in the hospital.

4. Verb 2 indicates the ‘succession’ of Verb 1.

E.g.

1)大家排队上车!(Dàjiā páiduì shànɡchē.)

          Please line up for boarding!

2)我起床穿衣服。(Wǒ qǐchuánɡ chuān yīfu.)

          I get up and put on clothes.

5. Verb 1 is ‘’(yǒu) or ‘没有’(méi yǒu).

E.g.

1)他事找你。(Tā yǒu shì zhǎo nǐ.)

          He’s looking for something from you.

2)我没有话说。(Wǒ méiyǒu huà shuō.)

         I have nothing to say.

6. Verb 1 and Verb 2 indicate the same thing but Verb 1 expresses affirmative meaning while Verb2 expresses negative meaning.

E.g.

1)他坐着不动。(Tā zuòzhe bú dònɡ.)

          He sat still.

2)弟弟闭口不说话。(Dìdi bìkǒu bù shuōhuà.)

          Younger brother closes his mouth and doesn’t talk.

Notes:

1) The sequence of Sentences with Serial Verb Phrases cannot be changed, and there is no conjunction or comma between Verb 1 and Verb 2.

2) In this structure, the verb (but only Verb 2) can be overlapped.

E.g.

1)我去公园逛逛(Wǒ qù ɡōnɡyuán ɡuànɡɡuanɡ.)

          I will go to the park for fun.

2)我去超市买买东西。(Wǒ qù chāoshì mǎimai dōnɡxi.)

         I will go to the supermarket to buy something.

3) For added meaning, we sometimes can add ‘可’(kě) before Verb 2, as there is an idiomatic usage with ‘无……可……’.

E.g.

1)商场里有很多打折商品可买,可以去看看。

        (Shānɡchǎnɡ lǐ yǒu hěn duō dǎzhé shānɡpǐn kě mǎikéyǐ qù kànkɑn.)

         There are so many goods on discount for shopping, you can go and have a look.

2)现在我干。(Xiànzài wǒ wú shì kě ɡàn.)

           Now I have nothing to do.

Summary:

(Besides, you can also check the video summary about this sentence as well as more HSK1 related grammar tutorial videos at here.) We have learned six meanings expressed through Sentences with Serial Verb Phrases, which are summarized in the following chart:

Sentences with serial verb Chinese

When you understand Sentences with Serial Verb Phrases, you will also understand a little bit more about the Chinese way of thinking. And then, when you start using these sentences, you will be able to talk more like a native Chinese speaker. Good luck with your studies!

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.

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