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cintiaghimel

3 ways of using 在。

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cintiaghimel

Hello,

I was told that 在 can be used as a verb (to be), preposition (at) and present continuous. I was wondering if any of you could enlight me a bit about it. I could get the present continuous stuff, but I`d like to see more examples of the difference (if there`s any...)between 在 preposition and 在 verb.

Here are some examples of each, hope someone can correct me if needed.

1) 我在中国。

2)我在商店。

3)我在家吃饭。

Thanks in advance.:wink:

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chinlearner83

It really depends on what you consider a preposition and what you consider a verb. I really don't think of 在 as a verb but rather a preposition (an orientation within of time, space, etc.), but it's clear that it however does also include elements of a 'verb' in the sense that you must use a verb on occasion to translate it into other languages.

Not the prettiest example of a preposition:

12岁小学男生在考试前突然猝死.

我在家吃饭 (from previous post, 在 could be considered a verb here)

Unless you're required to do a multiple choice/fill-in-the-blank test on this, I wouldn't worry about it. If you have to, learn the rules that the test goes by. Unfortunately, learning sometimes forces you to give up your beliefs in order to pass a test.

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rootfool

see the dictionary here:

〈动〉

(1) (形声。小篆字形。从土,才声。表示草木初生在土上。本义:存活着,生存,存在)

(2) 同本义 [be living;exist]

父母健在

(4) 居于,处于 [be at;be on]

文件在桌上

(6) 在于;决定于 [depend on;rest with;be in]

这事在你自己

〈介〉

(1) 表示动作、情状所涉及的处所、时间、范围等 [in;on;at]

在研究所工作;在梦中;在夜里;在某种情况下;

〈副〉

(1) 才;正在 [just;be in]

在建造的过程中

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Lu

在 as preposition:

我在家裡吃 I am eating my meal at home.

她在圖書館唸書 She is studying in the library.

在 as verb:

我在家 I am at home.

北京在中國 Beijing is in China.

在 as tense:

我在讀書 I am reading.

Actually, you can mostly lump the first two together. 在 means 'to be in/at/by/etc', if translated to English or a similar language, the verb can usually be left out, leaving the in/at/by/etc. But it's basically the same function.

Compare it to 好 and the like: it doesn't really mean 'good', it means 'to be good', but the 'to be' can often be left out in translation.

Hope this helps!

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Lugubert

In one beginners' course, I found in the book

他在吗? - 他不在.

I was surprised, because I had expected for example a location noun or 哪里 after 在. The teacher insisted that it was correct the way it was written. I don't doubt that people say it that way, but how do you regard it?

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gougou

Maybe you can compare it to the English: "Is he in?" - "No, he's not" Normally, you'd expect "in" to be followed by a place, but in this case is not's necessary. If you don't like that comparison, just learn that 在 can be an intransitive verb as well.

A usage that did throw me though was when I heard the secretary at my former job tell people who asked for the boss "他没在".

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madizi

I agree with Lu.

在 is in a function of present continuous when it is put directly before verb. That means that in a sentence 我在家吃饭, it is preposition. But in a sentence 我在吃饭, it is used for forming present continuous. And it is abbreviation of 正在. So you can use either 正在 or 在.

Lugubert: The meaning is (as gougou said) "Is he in?" and not "Where is he?". 在 means "be in/be at".

A funny thing for everyone, whose mother tongue is European language, is that Chinese doesn't have "to be". It is somehow "built-in" other verbs, as in 在 - "BE in/BE at".

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lokki

Chinese most definitely has a separate verb for "to be", namely the verb 是 shi4.

Your point is partly right though, since in a number of constructs, including 在 zai4 as well as a number of adjectives, the concept of "to be" is built into the word itself and 是 is not needed. But in many other cases you must use 是 for "to be". You can say "I am very glad" without "am" since "to be" is built into "glad", but you cannot say "I am a teacher" without it.

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YangJiao

sometimes, 在 is used to describe the on-going action.

Just like Lu says: 他在读书。he is reading.

it is a present progressive sense.

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adrianlondon

他不在 could mean he's passed away, right? How do you differentiate that from just not being in? Or is the former (ie he's died) be 他不在了?

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YangJiao

i think it will be much more easier to differentiate when there is a context.

i mean "在" shows up during a conversation, or in a passage.

i am sure you will know that when you read the whole text.

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madizi
Chinese most definitely has a separate verb for "to be", namely the verb 是 shi4.

Yes, you're right. 是 most of the times is translated as "to be". And even Chinese have incorporated this meaning into Chinese. But one teacher told me, that 是 actually doesn't mean "to be", but "=". For example:

我是外国人。 ----> 我 = 外国人。

In classical Chinese, 是's meaning was different. It often meant 这(个). An it seems, according to classical Chinese, that Chinese language didn't have verb for existence, "to be". The question therefore is, when did 是 get "to be" meaning? Was it spontaneous, natural process or artificial?

In 现代汉语词典 (1998修订本) are both meanings ("to be" and "="). And many others. Are there any people "out there" (on this forum) who know more about it?

This debate deserves separate thread, but I don't know if there is anybody willing to participate.

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