Learning Mandarin: Looks like, sounds like and more

Awesome reflection image by Bekah Russom

I mentioned in an earlier post that I like to learn sets of words or phrases, rather than trying to learn words individually. In that post, I discussed "Electric Words". 

Another interesting word grouping, is what I call the "like" group.

起来 (qǐlái) can be used for a number of things, often like "up", or "stand up", or "add up" and so on. It's pronounced a bit like "chee lie".

In fact, our then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull upset a number of Chinese by altering the sentence 中国人民站起来了 (Zhōngguó rénmín zhàn qǐláile) which basically means "The Chinese people have stood up". This sentence has long been attributed to Chairman Mao at the opening of the PRC (People's Republic of China) on October 1st 1949. Turnbull said that now 澳大利亚人民站起来 (Àodàlìyǎ rénmín zhàn qǐlái) or "Australians stand up". Some Chinese were offended by that reference, even though many claim that Chairman Mao didn't ever say it anyway.

But the ones I wanted to talk about today are the 动词 (Dòngcí) ie: verbs, or more specifically "perception or sensation verbs", followed by 起来 (qǐlái).  

Here are some examples:

(Kàn) means to look, so 看起来 (Kàn qǐlái) means "looks like".

(Tīng) means to listen, so 听起来 (Tīng qǐlái) means "sounds like".

(Wén) means to smell, so 闻起来 (Wén qǐlái) means "smells like".

(Cháng) means to taste, so 尝起来 (Cháng qǐlái) means "tastes like".

(Mō) means to touch or feel, so 摸起来 (Mō qǐlái) means "feels like".

It's worth noting at this point though, that this last phrase is a great example of how tools like Google Translate are awesome, but often have "interesting" translations when taken out of context. It says the last one means "touch up" or to "grope". Bing Translate says "Feel it".

I'd be guessing that a sentence like 你的床摸起来很舒服。(Nǐ de chuáng mō qǐlái hěn shūfú.) is more likely to be "Your bed feels very comfortable", even though, that would probably be better translated as 你的床感觉很舒服。(Nǐ de chuáng gǎnjué hěn shūfú.)

很舒服 (hěn shūfú) basically means "very" and "comfortable". All of the phrases above would typically be followed by an adverb and an adjective like this.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite is Tutor Ming. If you decide to try it, click here and it's a bit cheaper for you, and for me.

2 thoughts on “Learning Mandarin: Looks like, sounds like and more”

  1. 你的床摸起来很舒服
    I think it explicitly means the texture of the sheet. I'd imagine a scene in which one strokes the sheet and feels good about it.

    Also you have other verbs:
    你的床坐起来很舒服 (I don't even know how to translate this into English perfectly, but imagine a scene in which one sits on the bed and feels good about it)

    Or you can omit the verb:
    你的床很舒服 or 你的床感觉很舒服 (like what you said towards the end)
    This depends on the previous action.

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