How to use the preposition word 于(Yú) in Chinese
Another HSK5 grammar point that causes headaches to Chinese language students is the proposition word 于(Yú). “于” is a word often used in ancient Chinese, it means that you can only see it on formal occasions in modern Chinese. And because it can be used in different ways to express different meanings, and it can be equivalent to some words we are familiar with.
于(Yú) is equal to “在”
Same as “在”, structure of “于” can be “S. 于 + time + V.O.” or “S. 于 + location + V.O.”.
- 本次活动将于下周六晚八点举行。(The event will be held at 8 pm next Saturday.)
- 此话题将于线上展开讨论。(This topic will be discussed online.)
Different from “在”, “于” can also be placed after verb part.
- 甲骨文大约产生于中国的商周时期。(The oracle bone inscriptions appeared in China around the Shang and Zhou dynasties.)
- 这家公司成立于上海。(The company was founded in Shanghai.)
For announcements or notifications, we prefer to place “于” before verb. But for introduction, “于” would be placed after verb more often.
Use 于(Yú) as equivalent to “从”
The most common phrase is “来自于”.
- 我来自于中国北方的一个小村庄。(I come from a small village in northern China.)
There are also some phrases like “出于”:
- 即使非常讨厌一些人，但出于礼貌，我还是需要对他们微笑。(Even if I really hate some people, I still need to smile at them out of politeness.)
Or like “始于”:
- 这段故事始于三十年前。(This story began thirty years ago.)
As we can see from the sentences above, when “于” works as “从”, the word order will be almost the same as it in English.
于(Yú) is used instead of “对/向”
It means in the Mandarin Chinese language we often place words indicating orientation, object or aspect after “于”.
And the structure is “verb + 于 + noun”.
- 人们往往习惯于按经验办事。(People are often used to acting by experience.)
- 于公于私，你都应该跟同事处理好关系。(Whether for public or for private, you should manage the relationship with your colleagues.)
- 她是一个乐于分享的人。(She is a person who likes to share.)
Plus, 于(Yú) is similar to “比”
Good news to people who are always struggling with the word order of “比” structure: when you use “于” to make comparison, the word order will be completely the same as in English.
The comparison structure with “于” is “A adj. 于 B”.
- 北京的房价高于上海。(House prices in Beijing are higher than in Shanghai.)
- 贵公司产品的质量优于我们公司。(The quality of your products is superior to ours.)
Then also some news not so good: since “于” can only be used on formal occasions, adjectives placed before “于” should also be formal and advanced. If you don’t know whether the word you want to use is formal or not, you’d better not express it with “于”.