Separable verbs
Separable verbs (离合词) are verbs which consists of two characters: the first is the verb and the second is the object. For example, the word 吃饭 “to eat” actually means “to eat + a meal”.
What are separable verbs
Separable verbs usually consist of two or three characters which most often are translated as one word. Usually it’s a combination of a verb with a noun, or sometimes a verb and an adjective. For example: : 吃 — to eat, 饭 — meal : 见— to see, 面 — face : 起 — to get up, 床 — bed : 挂 — to hang up, 号 — number
In such phrases, the first part is expressed by a verb and is called the verb part. The second part is expressed by a noun or adjective and is called the nominal part.
Pay attention
Verb part + nominal part = separable verb
Separable verbs are also called verb-object constructions or verb-object phrases.
Pay attention
Separable verbs should be memorized, because they have some specificities in usage, which we will tell you about below.
Where to put the object
Pay attention
The object in the sentence answers the question “what?”, “whom?” and names the object or person being acted upon.
Separable verbs already have an object in the phrase, so we can't put another one after them. If the sentence has an object indicating a person, you must put it before the separable verb but after the preposition.
who? what?
separable verb
For example, in the word , 打 is the verb part “to call”, and 电话 is the noun part “a phone”. We can't put two objects in a row, so if we want to say “to call you”, we should put the word “you” in front of the verb and after the preposition :
To call you
gěi nǐ dǎ diànhuà
Pay attention
You cannot say 打电话你.
In the phrase , the verb part is 见 “to see”and the nominal part is 面 “face”. If you want to say “to meet you”, you should put the word “you” in front of the verb and after the preposition or :
To meet with you
gēn nǐ jiànmiàn
Pay attention
You cannot say 见面你.
There are exceptions words such as and . With these verbs, the person you are referring to must be placed inside of the verb-object phrase. It may be followed by the particle , but it is not mandatory.
to help me
bāng wǒ máng
to make her angry
shēng tā de qì
Where to put particles and function words
Verb-object phrases are also called separable verbs because suffixes and auxiliary words can be put between the verb and nominal parts and separate them.
verb part
nominal part
In between the verb part and the nominal part, we may put: 1) counting words with or without numerals.
To make one phone call
dǎ yí ge diànhuà
To make a phone call
dǎ ge diànhuà
2) verb suffixes , , and verb complements.
We met
jiànguò miàn
kāizhe chē
To have finished a meal
chīwán fàn
3) verb complements of duration when it comes after the verb and before the object.
Talking for twenty minutes
liáo èrshí fēnzhōng de tiān
4) an attribute.
To get rabies
shēng kuángquǎn bìng
Had a big fight
chǎo le yí dà jià
5) in colloquial speech, the word which means “what” or “which”.
What is divorce without marriage?
méi jiéhūn lí shénme hūn ne
Where to put the particle 得
The particle can only come after verbs. That's why we should put it after the verb part in a verb-object phrase. If the verb part itself has the same meaning as the whole verb-object phrase, we usually only use the verb part with the particle 得 and omit the nominal part.
verb part
He runs fast
tā pǎo de hěn kuài
If the verb part has several meanings or the meaning differs from the verb-object phrase, we cannot omit the nominal part. In such cases, we first say the verb-object phrase fully and then repeat only the verb part with the particle.
separable verb
verb part
To take a bath very often
xǐzǎo xǐ de fēicháng qín
How to reduplicate such verbs
Pay attention
Reduplication of verbs adds brevity, smoothness and ease of use to a sentence.
To separable verb, we use the AAB construction.
verb part
verb part
nominal part
To run
To smoke
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