Many HSK4 Chinese learners have questions on how to use 起来qilai in Chinese. What’s troublesome is that 起来qǐlai can be used both literally and figuratively.
Moreso, there’s no direct English-language equivalent, although the usage of ‘up’ is similar. ‘Up’ is also used literally such as ‘to stand up’, as well as metaphorically, such as ‘add up’. When used figuratively, ‘起来qǐlai’ often serves as a direction complement.
Three ways on how to use ‘起来 (qǐlai)’ in Chinese
Basic Chinese meaning: upwards movement
First, the basic meaning. We usually use’ Verb + 起来 (qǐlai)’ to express an upward movement like ‘up,’ as in the English examples of ‘站起来(zhàn qǐlai) stand up’ or ‘捡起来(jiǎn qǐlai) pick up.’
- Qǐng dàjiā zhàn qǐlai.
- Everyone standing up please.
- Qǐng bǎ tóu tái qǐlai.
- Please raise your head.
‘起来qǐlai’ signals a started or ongoing state
Secondly, in the Chinese language ‘verb+起来qǐlai’ can also be used to show that an action or state has started and is ongoing. When used like this, ‘起来qǐlai’ is only used with spontaneous actions, like ‘to sing 唱 (chàng), to jump 跳 (tiào), to chat 聊 (liáo)’, or with states like ‘hot 热 (rè), cold冷 (lěng), or good 好 (hǎo) ‘etc. It cannot be used with planned actions.
For example, this example is correct:
- Tiānqi rè qǐlai le.
- The weather is getting hot.
But this example is wrong, because it’s a planned action:
- Nǐ jǐ diǎn gōngzuò qǐlai?
- What time do you start working?
We can not used’起来qǐlai’ here, we should say:
- Nǐ jǐ diǎn kāishǐ gōngzuò?
- hen you start work?
To explain initiated action
Third，’起来 (qǐlai)’ is used in Mandarin Chinese to express that the speaker has only just initiated an action, and based on that, has made a preliminary judgment. It is used in the following structure:
Subj. + Verb + 起来 + Adv. + Adj.
This expresses that the subject seems adjective when the action of the verb is performed. This structure is frequently used in Chinese with perception verbs such as ‘to see看(kàn), to listen听(tīng), to smell闻(wén), to eat吃(chī)’, etcetera.
Par exemple :
- Zhè ge fángzi kànqǐlai hěn dà.
- This house looks very big.
We hope that explains you better how to use ‘起来qilai’ in the Mandarin Chinese language!