Things That are Close or Far Away

4.3 Things That are Close or Far Away

This lesson is set in the PRC. You’ll learn to understand questions and answers about whether things are close or far away. You’ll also learn some Beijing variants of directional terms you’ve already had.

Ms. Novak, newly arrived in Beijing, is staying at the Beijing hotel. The following exchange takes place as she hands in her room key to the hotel desk clerk. Listen.

Nǐ chūqu a!你出去啊 Oh, you’re going out!
Wǒ xiǎng chūqu mǎi jiběn shū.我想出去买几本书 I thought I would go out to buy a few books.

Here’s the compound verb to go out.

chūqu出去 to go out

The verb chū must be accompanied either by the name of the area being left (as in chūle zhèigi fàndiàn) or by a directional ending such as lái or . The compound verb chūqu is just like the English coming out.

The phrase following the verb chūqu often indicates the purpose of going out. Purpose extensions often follow the verbs lái and and their compounds.

Here are some further examples.

Tā zǎoshang jiù chūqu le他早上就出去了 He went out this morning.
Tā zài nèige shāngdiàli mǎi cài yǐjīng sānshifēn zhōng le! Hái méi chūlai!他在那个商店里买菜已经三十分钟了!还没出来 He has been in that shop buing groceries for thierty minutes already, and he hasn’t come out yet!

Note that when the verbs lái and are used as directional endings, they are toneless and unstressed and so the compound words are pronounced chūlai and chūqu.


In the sentence Nǐ chūqu a, the marker a is used to carry the intonation. Earlier, we saw this marker used to carry the intonation of a question – nǐ hǎo a? how are you. In the sentence nǐ chūqu a, it carries an intonation of an exclamation.

Nǐ chūqu a may also be used as a greeting. Instead of saying hello when greeting a friend or acquaintance, the Chinese state is obvious. For example, if you drop in unexpectedly on a Chinese friend, probably thte first thing he will say is Nǐ lái le! Qǐng jìn.

Or if you run an errand and then return, you will probably be greeted with Húilái le You’re back!. A friend of yours who runs into you downtown may say Nǐ yě dào zhàr lái le.


Here’s how you say a few books.

Jiběn shū几本书 a few books

When the bound word ji has a tone, it means how many. When it’s toneless, it means a few.

Tā mǎile jiběn shū他买了几本书 He bought a few books
Tā mǎile jǐběn shū?他买了几本书 How many books did he buy?

Intonation and context will help you decide which is being used.


Listen again and review.

The conversation continues.

Láojià, nǎr yǒu mài shūde劳驾,哪儿有卖书的 Excuse me, where is there a place to buy books?
Wángfǔjǐng Dàjiē yǒu yige Xīnhuá Shūdiàn, hěn dà.王府井大街有一个新华书店,很大 There is a New China Bookstore on Wangfujing Boulevard that is very large.

Here’s the word for excuse me.

Láojià劳驾 excuse me

The word láojià is used in Beijing when we question someone to do something for you. In other parts of the country people would be more likely to use the word qǐngwèn which you have learned.

Here’s the word for a street.

dàjiē大街 boulevard/big street

Wangfujing boulevard is one of the major shopping streets in Beijing. Here’s how you say it.

Wángfǔjǐng Dàjiē王府井大街 Wangfujing Boulevard

Here’s the name of the New China Bookstore, a popular chain of bookstores in China.

Xīnhuá Shūdiàn新华书店 New China bookstore

The word xīn means new and the word huá literally means glorious but often stands for China. The New China Bookstore has brances all over the PRC.

When the existence of a noun is established by the verb yǒu, the noun may be followed by a predicate giving more information about it. In the second sentence in the exchange, the predicate hěn dà, follows the sentence Wǎngfǔjīng Dàjiē yǒu yige Xīnhuá Shūdiàn, which establishes that the bookstore exists.

Notice that in the English translation the two Chinese sentences have been combined. Literally, the Chinese means On Wangfujing Boulevard there is a New China Bookstore. It is very large. Chinese punctuation rules allow two sentences to be separated by a comma instead of a period if the relationship between the sentences is considered very close.

Listen again and review.

The conversation continues. Listen and review afterwards.

Xīnhuá Shūdiàn lí zhèr yuǎn ma?新华书店里这儿远吗 Is the New China Bookstore far from here?
Bù yuǎn, hěn jìn.不远,很近 It’s not far; it’s very close.

Practice the following words.

from/to be apart from
yuǎn to be far
jìn to be close

The prepositional verb means from in the sense of to be apart from. Like other prepositional verb phrases, a phrase containing precedes the main verb – in this case, the adjectival verb yuǎn to be far.

Xīnhuá Shūdiànzhèryuǎn ma?
New China Bookstorefromherefar?

Unlike prepositions verbs, cannot be made negative. You cannot say that one point is not apart from another. You say that two points are not close to each other or not far from each other.

Xīnhuá Shūdiàn lí zhèr bú jìn新华书店李这儿不进 The New China Bookstore is not nearby
Xīnhuá Shūdiàn lí zhèr bù yuǎn新华书店里这儿不远 The New China Bookstore is not far

Cóng and are both translated as from. Cóng is used with the point of origin, and is used with distance between point.


The conversation continues. Listen and review afterwards.

Zěnme qù? Zǒuzhe qù kéyi ma?怎么走?走着去可以吗 How do I go? Is it possible to get there by walking?
Zǒuzhe qù kéyi.走着去可以 It’s possible to get there by walking.

Here is the word for walking.

Zǒuzhe走着 walking

Zěnme qù is similar to zěnme zǒu except the the first refers to the mode of transport while the later refers to the path taken.

When the marker -zhe is added to an action verb, the verb form corresponds to the English -ing. The -zhe puts the focus on an action continuing for some time. Because of this -zhe is called a ‘marker of duration’.

Tā xuézhe xuézhe, jiù bù xiǎng xué le.他学着学着就不想学了 He was studying and studying, then he didn’t want to study anymore.

In the sentence Zǒuzhe qù kéyi the marker -zhe is attached to one verb zǒu to modify another verb . This indicates that the action of the verb to which -zhe is added occurs simultaneously with the action of the modified verb. The action of walking modifies the action of going there. The phrase can be understood as walkingly go.

Here are some other examples:

Tā měitiān chīzhe fàn kàn diànshì.他每天吃着饭看电视 Every day he watches television while eating.
Nǐ shēngzhe bìng hái zuò shì.泥生着病还做事 You work even when you’re sick.

Let’s listen to another conversation that takes place in front of the Beijing hotel.

Let us go back to Ms. Novak who you remember just found out that she could get to the New China Bookstore by walking. Listen.

Zěnme zǒu?怎么走 How do I go?
Cóng dàmén chūqu, cháo běi guǎi, jiù shi Wǎngfǔjīng Dàjiē.从大门出去,朝北拐,就是王府井大街 You go out the entrance, turn to the north, and that’s Wiingf\ijing Boulevard.

Here is the word for the entrance.

dàmén大门 entrance/big door

And here is the word for toward.

cháo toward

Literally, cháo means facing towards and is commonly used in Beijing. In other parts of China the word xiàng 向 is more likely to be heard.

Here’s the verb for to turn.

guǎi to turn

Guai usually refers to a 90-degree turn, although it can be used for a 180-degreee turn.

The adverb jiù emphasizes the identity expressed by the verb shi in the sequence. Jiùshi literally means (that) is precisely or right there is. Here you see that jiu is used to mean right, just or precisely. You go out the entrance, turn to the north, and that’s Wangfujing Boulevard right there.

Listen again and review.

Ms. Novak has one more question to ask about going to the New China Bookstore.

Zǒu duō yuǎn?走多远 How far do I go?
Zǒu bù yuǎn, lùdōngde dìyīge dàlóu jiù shi Xīnhuá Shūdiàn.走不远,路东的第一个大楼就是新华书店 Go a short distance, end the first building on the East side of the street is the New China Bookstore.

The question duō yuǎn? how far? is formed just like the questions duō dà? how old and duō jiǔ? how long.

Here’s the word a large building.

dàlóu大楼 large multistory building

And here’s how you say the east side of the street.

lùdōngde路东的 east side of the street

The short form lùdōngde is the usual Beijing abbreviation for lùdōngbianr. Notice that the phrase lùdōngde comes at the beginning of its phrase in Chinese while in English the phrase on the east side of the road comes at the end.

lùdōngdedìyīge dàlóu
the first buildingon the east

Listen again and review.

The following conversation takes place in front of the Beijing hotel. In it you’ll hear the phrase walk to the second intersection. Listen.

The next two conversations review what was covered in this lesson. The first conversation takes place in the east lobby of the Beijing hotel. Listen.

For the next conversation, a Canadian student meets a Chinese friend at a bazaar. The Chinese student is carrying some packages under his arm. Listen to the conversation live.

Pronunciation Practice