Archive for the ‘Prepositions’ Category

Both第一次[di4 yi1 ci4] and 头一次[tou2 yi1 ci4] mean “the first time”. However, there are several basic differences between the  usage of 第 and 头 which lead to  different meanings, which will be with several example sentences.

To begin with, 第 focuses on the previous times while 头 indicates the initial time, therefore 第三次 and 头三次 have dissimilar meanings. 第三次 means the third time whereas 头三次means the first three times.

考试[kao3 shi4] (exams) 成绩[cheng2 ji4] (results)

EX:这是我第三次的考试成绩。 This is the result of my third exam.

EX:这是我头三次的考试成绩。 These are the results of my first three exams.

Secondly, when 第 and 头 are coupled with 几[ji3] (how many), the usages of the two  phrases are different. 第几次 which means “how many times” is usually used in a question sentence. 头几次 meaning “the first few times” can be used in either a question sentence or a declarative sentence.

EX: 这是你第几次考试? How many times have you taken the exam?

EX:这是你头几次考试? Is this one of your first few exams?

EX:这是你头几次考试。This is one of my first few exams.

Finally, in Chinese “the first two times” is expressed as 头两次 instead of 头二次。However, 第二次is acceptable.

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大家好!

Today kicks off a new feature for us at MJChinese – a section of our site devoted to providing clarification on vocabulary use in Chinese, called “Nasty nuances!”

This feature will present bite-sized blog posts designed to demonstrate the different features, functions and subtle intricacies of words which translate similarly from Chinese -> English.

Our first stop is differentiating between 贷款 (dai4kuan3 – to get a loan) and 借债 (jie4zhai4 – to borrow money). 

First, a great quote relating to all things monetary:

“Borrow money from a pessimist – they don’t expect it back”—Janeane Garofalo

OK, now onto the serious stuff.  This time, our respective English translations “to get a loan” and “to borrow money”(fortunately) do contain some clues as to when each should be used. 

 “To get a loan” does sound rather official, and sure enough, we use 贷款 when we trudge to our local bank branch or credit institution for a loan. 

我同学要向银行贷款. (My classmate had to ask the bank for a loan)

In English, “to borrow money” can be used in both informal and formal contexts.  You can borrow money from a friend, a bank or a loanshark.  In Chinese, 借债 is usually employed in an informal sense, when you borrow money from a friend or close acquaintance.  On a more interesting note, 借债 can also be used for a loan from seedy underword figures, such as loansharks!

For instance, 明天早上我会向他借债 (Tomorrow, I will borrow some money from him)

It’s important to note that when constructing sentences when you are approaching somebody to request something, 向 (xiang4) is used.  This is a preposition which means “toward”.  If we deconstruct the use of 向 in the above sentence by interpreting the example sentence literally, we get:

Tomorrow morning I will toward him to borrow money.

This does make some sense! After all we need to approach the creditor(whether they be friend, financial institution or a more unscrupulous individual) in order to obtain a loan, so think of 向 in that sense, thereby making our literal translation somewhat more refined:

Tomorrow morning I will approach him to borrow money.

As such, remember that the preposition must follow the basic Chinese grammar structure, whereby 向 comes before the “target” of the request, which is then followed by the verb.

Happy studying!

Michael and Jing 

Before we begin, a special thanks needs to go out to Mao Yueyan and Li Xiaojiao, who both provided valuable assistance with this article.

Both 向 and 往 are prepositions which have the general meaning of ‘toward’. 

However, their usage and application(s) are quite different.

Phrases which utilise the preposition 往 must express “concrete” directions.  “Concrete” directions include:

Countries (Ex.: 往美国寄)

Directions such as “north, south, east and west”  (Ex.: 往东边看)

Directions such as “left, right, in front, behind, inside, outside” (Ex.: 往里走)

Locations such as “the Great Wall, your apartment, the hospital” (Ex.: 往杭州飞)

 

往 subsequently takes on the meaning of  “(to go) toward”

向 means “toward” or “to”.  It is often used to indicate movement toward people or objects.  向 can take “concrete” directions and it can take abstract directions.  Take the phrase 走向成功 (towards success) as an example.  It is not possible to use 往 to convey this particular phrase.

A further difference between 往 and 向 is that 向 allows the “target” of a specific action to be indicated.  她向送别的人挥手告别 (She waved towards the people who saw her off).  In this sentence, 向 shows the direction of the action with respect to the recipient (the people who saw her off). 

A simpler example is: 向她介绍一下 (introduce to her) where  向 shows the direction of the action (the introduction) with respect to the intended recipient (her).

The distinction may seem like a mind headache, but it can be summarised like this: 往 = (to go) towards a place/direction, 向 = towards a person/object/abstract notion.

Michael and Jing (thanks again to Yueyan and Xiaojiao)

Generally speaking, 从 can be used as a verb, an adjective and a preposition. However, 从 is most frequently applied as a preposition. This is what this short article highlights.

When 从 is used as a preposition, it has four functions (Liu, 2001). We will look at one today.  That is,  using 从 to imply the starting point of an action. This preposition can be used to recount your experiences from daily life, discuss changing weather patterns, schedules or holiday plans.

从, when accompanied by a noun denoting location or time, illustrates the starting point of the action.   So, 从学校 is translated as “from school” and 从三月 means “from March”. 

The sentence pattern which uses 从 is often:

[Subject] + [从] + [location/time word] + [verb/object construction]

*A time complement may follow the verb where necessary.  Verbs may also be accompanied by directional complements (来, 去).

Jing’s examples:

我刚从学校回来。(I just returned from school)

从我宿舍到学校坐车要10分钟。(From my dormitory, it takes 10 minutes by bus to reach school)

Michael’s examples:

我从博物馆回到办公室了。 (From the museum, I returned to the office )

你从你的女朋友那儿去上班, 是不是? (You came to work from her place, right?)

*In Michael’s last sentence, we see that where a noun is not a traditional “location” (such as person), 那儿 or 这儿 must follow the noun so as to denote a location. Whether 那儿 or 这儿 is used depends on the perspective and situation. To illustrate, consider the following examples:

我从同学那儿来. (I came [here] from my classmate’s place)

我想从你这儿去打篮球。(I’d like to go play basketball from your place)

会议完,他从张教授那儿去参观北京图书馆了. (After the meeting finished, he went from Professor Zhang’s office to visit the Beijing library)

司机,从这儿去那儿多少钱? (Driver, how much is it from here to there?)

**Note that, when translating, 那儿 and 这儿 can imply someone’s residence or office.

从 can also be employed to show the commencement of an action by reference to time (usually a date). For instance, 

这部电影从11月18号开始上映。(The movie is commencing from the 18th of November)

在中国,春天从2月底开始。(Spring in China begins from the end of February)

We hope you enjoy the breakdown of 从 as a preposition.  Feel free to post your practice sentences in the comments box.

再见,

Michael and Jing