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Hi, everybody! You're watching Chinese whiteboard lessons with Yinru. In the last lesson, we talked about the past tense in Chinese. Technically speaking, there isn't any tenses in a Chinese language. We say something happened in the past or in the present or in the future by the help of using auxiliary words either before or after the verb, or sometimes we use some time phrases to clarify. So how do you say someone is doing something or how do we use the present progressive tense in Chinese? In this lesson, we're going to compare these two words; 在 (zaì) before a verb, and 着 (zhe) after the verb. They can both be used to describe the present progressive tense situation, but how do we use them exactly? Let's take a closer look together.
You use 在 (zaì) before a verb. It is very simple. It means in the middle of doing something and 在 (zaì) is just like the “be” verb in English. You have to use this “be” and you have to use 在 (zaì) and then 动词 (dòngcí) the verb. So 在 (zaì) and then an action.
If you want to ask someone, “What are you doing?”, you can say - 你在干嘛? (Nǐ zài gàn má?) “You are doing what?”. 干 (gàn) is “to do” and 干嘛 (gàn má) is “to do what” or you can say - 你在干什么 (Nǐ zài gànshénme?). Both of them are very colloquial and they're used to ask “What are you doing?”. To answer this question, for example, you can say, “I'm writing a report.” 我在写报告。 (Wǒ zài xiě bàogào.) 写 (xiě) is the verb here and 报告 (bàogào) is a “report” - 我在写报告。 (Wǒ zài xiě bàogào.) Okay, the third one - 你回来的时候,我在刷牙。 (Nǐ huílái de shíhòu, wǒ zài shuāyá.) 你回来的时候 (Nǐ huílái de shíhòu) “When you came back, I was brushing my teeth.” So I was brushing my teeth when you came back. So 在 (zaì) + verb cannot only be used in the present progressive tense, but also in the past progressive tense, I was brushing my teeth.
Another grammar point I'd like to point out, other than 在 (zaì), you can also use 正在 (zhèngzài). They have the same grammatical function and they use the same 正在 (zhèngzài) or 在 (zaì) and then the verb. If you ask me the differences between these two, I would say that 正在 (zhèngzài) emphasizes more on the right in the middle of doing something and has a stronger tone. 我正在写报告。 (Wǒ zhèngzài xiě bàogào.) “I am in the middle of writing my report.”, versus - 我在写报告。 (Wǒ zài xiě bàogào.) “I'm writing my report.”, okay.
Let's move on to 着 (zhe). 着 (Zhe), you use it after the verb and then 着 (zhe), 动词,然后“着 ” (dòngcí, ránhòu “zhe”). There are different usages of that verb + 着 (zhe). Let's look at the first one. First of all, 动词加上“着” (dòngcí jiā shàng “zhe”) can be used to refer or to describe the existence or the continuous aspect of an action. It's like the “there be” sentence pattern in English, but you want to use, you want to put the location in your subject part. I mean, sorry, so location and then the verb and then 着 (zhe) and the rest of your sentence.
一楼住着一位老人。 (Yī lóu zhùzhe yī wèi lǎorén.) 一楼 (yī lóu) “First floor”, 住 (zhù) “to live”, 住着 (zhùzhe) “living”, 一位老人 (yī wèi lǎorén) “an old person”. So this sentence actually means, “An old person is living on the first floor.”, but we put the location first and the verb. So 一楼住着一位老人。 (Yī lóu zhùzhe yī wèi lǎorén.) “There is an old person living on the first floor.”
第二个 (dì èr gè)
黑板上写着今天的作业。 (Hēibǎn shàng xiězhe jīntiān de zuòyè.) 黑板上 (hēibǎn shàng) is the location, 黑板 (hēibǎn) is “blackboard”, but we don't have 黑板 (hēibǎn), we have a 白板 (báibǎn). This is 白色 (báisè) “white” so 白板 (báibǎn) “whiteboard”. We have a whiteboard, but on the blackboard write or is writing today's homework 今天的作业 (jīntiān de zuòyè). So this is 写着 (xiězhe) “write” so “Today's homework is writing on the blackboard / On the blackboard, write today's homework.”
Third one…
我的手机里存着你的照片。 (Wǒ de shǒujī lǐ cúnzhe nǐ de zhàopiàn.) 我的手机 (Wǒ de shǒujī) “My phone / My cell phone”, 存 (cún) this is the verb meaning “to keep / to store”, 你的照片 (nǐ de zhàopiàn) “your photos”, so “In my phone stores, your pictures.” How romantic. So this is the first use of verb 着 (zhe) referring to the existence, okay.
The second use of 着 (zhe) is similar to this 在 (zaì) + verb, but the difference is there is 着 (zhe) after 在 (zaì) and verb and sometimes, there is 呢 (ne). 呢 (ne) is an end of sentence particle that implies certain tones. So when you use - 什么什么着呢 (shénme shénme zhene) or 在什么什么着 (zaì shénme shénme zhe) or 在什么什么着呢 (zaì shénme shénme zhene), it is more, first of all, colloquial and it sometimes carries certain tones and a lot of times, there is a context. So when you're telling a story, at the moment of something happening and something else happened so I would say that's the big difference between the sentence pattern and this one.
So let's look at some examples…
他正吃着呢! (Tā zhèng chī zhene!) 正 (zhèng) and verb and 着呢 (zhene), 他正吃着呢! (Tā zhèng chī zhene!) “He is eating.” Well in here, when would you say that? Okay. For example, when you say this, it could be the case that you are asking your friend's mom if your friend has done eating because we have to go and your friend's mom says, “Yeah, he is eating, no hurry.” So 他正吃着呢 (Tā zhèng chī zhene), 他在吃呢 (Tā zaì chī ne), 他正吃着呢 (Tā zhèng chī zhene), 别急 (bié jí) no hurry, okay. There is a certain tone.
The second one…
大家正在看着比赛直播,突然停电了。 (Dàjiā zhèngzài kànzhe bǐsài zhíbō, túrán tíngdiànle.) Okay, the second part here - 突然停电了 (túrán tíngdiànle) is “suddenly”, 停电了 (tíngdiànle) “the power went out”. So when everybody 大家 (dàjiā) 正 (zhèng) or 正在 (zhèngzài), you can use 正什么着 (zhèng shénme zhe) or 在什么着 (zài shénme zhe) or 正在什么着 (zhèngzài shénmezhe). 正在看着比赛直播 (zhèngzài kànzhe bǐsài zhíbō), 比赛直播 (bǐsài zhíbō) is the game, 比赛 (bǐsài), 直播 (zhíbō) “live broadcast”. So “When everybody was watching the live broadcast of a game, the power went out.”. So here, it’s like kind of telling a story and there's a context. You use 正在 (zhèngzài) and 着 (zhe) together. 正在 (zhèngzài) or 在 (zài) verb then 着 (zhe) or 呢 (ne), okay.
Let's move on to the third one, okay. In the third case or in the third usage of verb + 着 (zhe), there will be two verbs; there is a verb number 1 and then 着 (zhe) and a verb number 2 or a verb number 2 phrase or a verb phrase. So the main action should be the verb number 2 and the function of verb number 1 is to describe how the main function or how the verb number 2 is happening.
For example…
宝宝哭着找妈妈。 (Bǎobǎo kūzhe zhǎo māmā.) There are two verbs in this sentence. First one is 哭 (kū) “to cry” and 找 (zhǎo) is “to look for / to find”. “The baby is looking for his/her mom while crying.” So 他正在找妈妈 (tā zhèngzài zhǎo māmā) is looking for the mom while he’s crying, crying and looking for his mom.
Second one, 第二个 (dì èr gè)...
空姐笑着说:“不客气。” (Kōngjiě xiàozhe shuō: “Bù kèqì.”) 空姐 (kōngjiě) is what you call a female flight attendant 空姐 (kōngjiě) and 笑 (xiào) the first verb, 说 (shuō) the second verb to say and 笑 (xiào) as opposed to 哭 (kū) is “to laugh / to smile”. So she said you're welcome while smiling or with a smile on her face, she said you're welcome.
So these are the different uses of verb + 着 (zhe) and for 在 (zaì) + verb, it's very simple and straightforward.
Now, let's do the quiz section. Okay, today I have some translation for you to do, but to make it more easy, I have some parts already written out. So let’s fill in the missing parts.
第一个 (dì yī gè)
“I’m doing laundry.” I am doing laundry should be very easy. I am doing laundry - 我在洗衣服。 (Wǒ zài xǐ yīfú.) Doing laundry or do laundry is 洗 (xǐ) “to wash” and 衣服 (yīfú) “clothes” so 我在洗衣服 (Wǒ zài xǐ yīfú). Okay.
The second one…
“I'm doing laundry, be there in a minute.” So it's more, first of all colloquial. It's a spoken language and it has certain tone like, “Okay be right there, no rush, I’ll be right there.” Be there in a minute 马上就来 (mǎshàng jiù lái), 马上就来 (mǎshàng jiù lái) and 什么什么着 (shénme shénmezhe), 什么什么呢 (shénme shénmene), it looks like we can use this. So 在 (zaì) or 正 (zhèng) and the verb and then 着 (zhe) or 着呢 (zhene). Okay now, please notice that 洗衣服 (xǐ yīfú) the verb here “doing laundry”, it follows that type or that kind we mentioned in the previous lesson which is the verb; the action, plus the component; the noun. So the verb consists of two parts; the action, the verb; and the noun. So 洗 (xǐ) is the verb, 衣服 (yīfú) is the the noun/the complement. So in the previous lesson, we put 了 (le) or 过 (guò) between those two parts so 洗了衣服 (xǐle yīfú) or 洗过衣服 (xǐguò yīfú), we can say that. So 着 (zhe) also works the same. We can put 着 (zhe) between 洗 (xǐ) and 衣服 (yīfú) so 洗着衣服 (xǐzhe yīfú). Here you can say - 我在洗着衣服呢,马上就来 (Wǒ zài xǐ zhe yīfú ne, mǎshàng jiù lái), okay. 我在洗着衣服呢 (Wǒ zài xǐ zhe yīfú ne), so here 着 (zhe) is between 洗 (xǐ) and 衣服 (yīfú) which is one word, one verb, but we can put 着 (zhe) between the verb and the noun, the action and the complement.
第三个 (dì sān gè) The third one…
“I'm washing my clothes sitting down.” So here, we have two verbs; “sit down” and “wash my clothes”. So how do I wash my clothes? I'm sitting down washing my clothes. So this follows here, two verbs. So 我怎么样洗衣服呢 (Wǒ zěnme yàng xǐ yīfú ne), 我坐着洗衣服 (Wǒ zuòzhe xǐ yīfú), 坐 (zuò) “to sit down” is the number 1 verb, 我坐着洗衣服 (Wǒ zuòzhe xǐ yīfú). Or here, you can also put a 在 (zài) here. It works as well. 我在坐着洗衣服 (Wǒ zài zuòzhe xǐ yīfú) or 我正在坐着洗衣服 (Wǒ zhèngzài zuòzhe xǐ yīfú), okay.
第四个 (dì sì gè) Number four…
“There is a painting hanging on the wall.” There is, the existence of something and the location is on the wall. So we put location first. “On the wall” in Chinese is 墙上 (qiáng shàng). Okay, let’s write it down, this part first. What is the verb here? Hang, in Chinese is 挂 (guà). So 墙上挂着一幅画。 (Qiáng shàng guàzhe yī fú huà.) Notice, the measure word for a painting or a picture is 幅 (fú), 一幅画 (yī fú huà). “There's a painting hanging on the wall.”
最后一个 (zuìhòu yīgè) last one…
“Reading your book laying down is not good for your eyes.” Okay, we have two actions, two verbs here. So how do we say this? Read your book 看书 (kànshū), lay down 躺 (tǎng), so 怎么样看书呢 (Zěnme yàng kànshū ne), 躺着看书 (tǎngzhe kànshū). 对眼睛不好 (duì yǎnjīng bù hǎo), 对什么不好 (duì shénme bù hǎo) is “not good for something” and 对眼睛不好 (duì yǎnjīng bù hǎo) “not good for eyes”, 对眼睛不好 (duì yǎnjīng bù hǎo) so the whole sentence can be 躺着看书对眼睛不好 (Tǎngzhe kànshū duì yǎnjīng bù hǎo). All right, 躺着看书对眼睛不好 (Tǎngzhe kànshū duì yǎnjīng bù hǎo), don't do that.
Alright, today we talked about 在 (zaì) + a verb versus a verb + 着 (zhe). So if you have more questions, don't forget to leave them in the comment section below and go to our website ChineseClass101.com to look for 去找 (qù zhǎo) more Chinese learning resources. I'll see you in the next lesson. 我们下期课再见吧。 (Wǒmen xiàqī kè zàijiàn ba.) Bye-bye everyone. 大家再见。 (Dàjiā zàijiàn.)


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ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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ChineseClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 11:40 PM
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你好 robert groulx!

不用谢。(Bú yòng xiè.) = No need for thanks. You're welcome. 😇

谢谢 (Xièxie) for studying with us, it's great to have you here!

Let us know if you have any questions.

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雷文特 (Levente)

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robert groulx
Saturday at 09:55 PM
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thanks for the lesson

my favorite words are 躺着看书对眼睛不好


ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 09:47 PM
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Hello Rosa Heath,

Thank you for your comment. Yes right, Yinru used 什么什么 shénme shénme to replace the blanks. It can be translated into "something something" here.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Rosa Heath
Saturday at 09:33 AM
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I believe the "shenme shenme" is supposed to be similar to "..." Or "blah blah blah"

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Sunday at 04:14 AM
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你好 Dominic,

谢谢 for studying with us. We are happy you liked it!

Please let us know if you have any questions.

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雷文特 (Levente)

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Friday at 01:03 AM
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Thank you very much! This is a very good explanation especially on using 着 to link two verbs for a sentence structure such as 躺着看书…

Mastering this sentence structure help improve my Chinese writing!

chris huff
Saturday at 02:24 AM
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I'm really confused by shénme shénme. I've heard it used multiple times in this video but I don't know what it's supposed to me. I get that it's "what what" but why is that phrase used?

Thursday at 03:59 PM
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Hello Marina,

Thank you for your positive comment! We're glad that you found this lesson helpful. 😄

Let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

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Wednesday at 12:07 AM
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Perfect explanation! Thank you very much!