Verb – Noun (object) combinations in Chinese (动宾 Dòng bīn)

In Mandarin Chinese you will frequently encounter situations where verbs are not used alone but accompanied with a specific noun. In English this is called “collocation”, defined as a juxtaposition of two words close together more often than they would usually occur together.

Introduction
In many instances in Chinese, verbs and objects are put together in specific combinations. In Chinese this is called (动宾 Dòng bīn) — this is a useful feature of Chinese grammar to use because they are so common.

These are not completely foreign to English speakers either, we often use similar verb-object combinations of which I will show some examples:

“take a hike”
“catch a cold”
“take a shower”
“have a break”

In each of these cases, the noun (like “cold”) is frequently associated with the verb preceding it (like “catch”) in fact if you don’t “catch” a “cold” then what verb would you use instead of “catch”? These two words have been used together frequently enough to count as a collocation.

Examples in Mandarin Chinese
Here are some extremely commonly used examples in Chinese of 动宾 (Dòng bīn)

吃饭 (Chī fàn) to eat a meal
散步 (Sàn bù) To take a walk
聊天 (Liáo tiān) To have a chat (lit. talk about the sky)
跑步 (Pǎo bù) To take a run
起床 (Qǐ chuáng) To get up (from bed)
亲嘴 (Qīn zuǐ) To kiss (lips)
开玩笑 (Kāi wán xiào) to make a joke / joke about

These can be used naturally in sentences, often in the place where you would only place a verb in English, for example, in English I’d say “let’s go eat” but in Chinese the “eat” frequently has a noun after it, like 我们去吃饭吧 (Wǒ men qù chī fàn ba)

Here are some natural language examples of those above examples

在这儿吃饭不太好 (Zài zhè’er chīfàn bù tài hǎo) “Eating (a meal) here isn’t very good” (referring to perhaps a restaurant)

我喜欢一个人散步 (Wǒ xǐhuan yīgè rén sànbù) “I like going for walks alone”

我一直都喜欢跟你一起聊天 (Wǒ yīzhí dōu xǐhuan gēn nǐ yīqǐ liáotiān) “I’ve always liked chatting with you (together)”

我觉得我应该多跑步 (Wǒ juéde wǒ yīnggāi duō pǎobù) “I think I should go running more”

我明天早上需要早一点起床 (Wǒ míngtiān zǎoshang xūyào zǎo yīdiǎn qǐchuáng) “I need to get up a bit earlier tomorrow morning”

Well, you can make up one with 亲嘴 (Qīn zuǐ) To kiss (lips) yourself 😛

我觉得他只是开玩笑而已 (Wǒ juéde tā zhǐshì kāiwánxiào éryǐ) “I think he was just joking”

Enjoy 动宾 (Dòng bīn) !

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