Chinese is a quite challenging yet interesting language to learn. It is spoken by 70 percent of all Chinese speakers and getting more popular. Many people find it useful to learn as it can be used to communicate with Chinese people and it helps us in education.
However, it is also difficult to learn because its grammar is complicated. We can start learning this language with some simple phrases and vocabulary.
In this post, we will share how to use the simple word “在” (zài) and the grammar-related information. Let’s dive deep!
How to Use 在 in Chinese
在 is a vocabulary word that has several different uses and functions. We can see this word very often because it is the 8th most common Chinese character. There are a few ways you can use it:
Express A Location with 在
First of all, it can be used to indicate the location and used to state ‘to be located at’. For example, 我在家 (wǒ zài jīa) means I’m at home. We can also say that 我不在家 (wǒ bú zài jīa), which means I’m not at home. 不在 (bú zài) is the negotiation of 在.
Besides that, we can also indicate the location with 在 before verbs. We can use 在 to include the place where an action takes place, by placing 在 between a verb and a place. For example, 我住在马来西亚 (wǒ zhù zài mǎ lái xī yà) which means I live in Malaysia. This sequence can be used for several verbs like 住 (live), 站 (stand), 放 (put), and 坐 (sit).
- 我住在城市 (wǒ zhù zài chéng shì) I live in a city.
- 我站在椅子上 (wǒ zhàn zài yǐzi shàng) I stand on a chair.
- 我把书放在桌上 (wǒ bǎ shū fàng zài zhuō shang) I put the book on the table.
- 我坐在课室里 (wǒ zuò zài kè shì lǐ ) I sit in a classroom.
We can also use this to ask a question. For instance, 你住在马来西亚吗? (nǐ zhù zài mǎ lái xī yà ma) Do you live in Malaysia?
Express An Action On Progress with 在
在 and 正在 (zhèngzài) are used to suggest ongoing actions at the present. Both of these words can only be used with actions, not adjectival, stative, and modal verbs. For example:
- 弟弟在念书 (dìdi zài niànshū) Younger brother is studying.
- 妈妈在煮饭 (māma zài zhǔfàn) Mother is cooking.
- 我在看电视 (wǒ zài kān/kàn diànshì) I am watching television.
You can also use 在 in a question. For instance, 你在做什么? (nǐ zài zuò shénme) What are you doing?
Use 现在(xiàn zài) in the present
The word 现在 can be used when we are talking about actions occurring in the present.
- 我现在在图书馆 (wǒ xiànzài zài túshūguǎn) I’m at the library now.
- 现在的科技进步了 (xiànzài de kējì jìn bù le) The technology now has advanced.
Use 在 to express the scoop of something
Sometimes, 在 is combined with 方面 (fāng miàn) to explain the phrase “in the area of”.
- 我在写作方面很优秀 (wǒ zài xiězuò fāngmiàn hěn yōuxiù) I’m good at writing.
- 他在数学方面很擅长 (tā zài shù xué fāngmiàn hěn shàncháng) He is talented in math.
Errors When Using 在
Some people will make mistakes when using the word 在. Here are some common mistakes.
1. Wrong Position
The word 在 should be used after the verb when the sentence explains an action that occurs in a place. For example, I put a vase on the table.
Wrong – 我把花瓶在桌上放。(wǒ bǎ huā pǐn zàizhuōshang fàng)
Correct – 我把花瓶放在桌上。(wǒ bǎ huāpíng fàngzàizhuōshang)
However, 在 should be put before a verb when there is a location. For example, I study in the library.
Wrong – 我读书在图书馆。(wǒ dúshū zài túshūguǎn）
Correct – 我在图书馆读书。(wǒ zài túshūguǎn dúshū)
When some verbs are used with a time phrase, 在 should be put after the verb. For example, I was born in 1997.
Wrong – 我在1997年生。(wǒ zài 1997 nián shēng)
Correct – 我生在1997年。(wǒ shēngzài 1997 nián)
2. Localizer Missing At the End of the Sentence with 在
There should be a localizer when 在 is used to express locations or a scope.
We can use:
- 在……中 (zài … zhōng)
- 在……上 (zài … shàng)
- 在……方面 (zài …fāngmiàn)
- 在……里 (zài … lǐ)
Example 1: The book is on the table.
Wrong – 那本书在桌子。(nà běn shū zài zhuōzi)
Correct – 那本书在桌子上。(nà běn shū zài zhuōzi shàng)
Example 2: In the crowd.
Wrong – 在人群。(zài rénqún)
Correct – 在人群中。(zài rénqún zhōng)
Example 3: He is talented in music.
Wrong – 他在音乐很出色。(tā zài yīn yvè hěn chūsè)
Correct – 他在音乐方面很出色。(tā zài yīn yvè fāngmiàn hěn chūsè)
Example 4: Your purse is in your bag.
Wrong – 你的钱包在书包。(nǐde qiánbāo zài shūbāo)
Correct – 你的钱包在书包里。(nǐde qiánbāo zài shūbāo lǐ)
3. Time Noun Missing At the End of the Sentence with 在
The phrase 的时候 (de shí hòu) should be put at the end when the sentence is expressing a time. This phrase means ‘when’ or ‘at the time’. For example, I traveled to Japan during the school holiday.
Wrong – 在放假，我到日本去旅游。(zài fàngjià, wǒ dào Rìběn qù Lǚ yóu)
Correct – 在放假的时候，我到日本去旅游。(zài fàngjià deshíhòu, wǒ dào rìběn qù Lǚ yóu)
4. Misusing 在 and 再 (zài)
Some people will confuse the word 在 and 再 (zài). Both of them have the same sound to pronounce but actually, they have different meanings.
I’m sure that you have understood the meaning of 在. Now, let’s talk about 再, which means again. People are usually confused with these two words and use 再 to replace 在 in the sentence. Hence, you should understand the difference between them to make sure your sentence would not get wrong.
Learning the word 在 is important if we want to speak Chinese well. We will use this word in most of the sentences when we communicate using Chinese.
I hope this article helps you to gain more knowledge and know more about Chinese grammar. If you want to learn more, welcome to subscribe to Maayot for more interesting Chinese knowledge. You can also check out other useful Chinese words as below: