Archive for the ‘向’ Category


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)