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The usage of “在zai” in Mandarin Chinese

in Chinese can assume as verb and prepostion grammatical roles in a Chinese sentence:

1. Functions of the verb 在

(1)The verb 在 expresses existence. For example:


tā fù mǔ dōu zài 。

His parents are still alive.


nà zuò lǎo fáng zǐ bú zài le.

That old house is no longer existed.

(2)A verb can be used to indicate an action in progress


wǒ zài chī fàn 。

I`m eating.

(3)The location verb 在 zài ‘be located at’ To indicate location, use 在 zài.

Notice that English uses the verb ‘be’ and the preposition ‘at’ to express this meaning.

The sentence structure is : subject + 在 + phrase of locality.

Tā zài jiā.

He is at home


wǒ zài běi jīng.

I`m in Beijing.


Túshūguǎn zài gōngyuán de běibiān.

The library is north of the park.

Negation for 在 zài is 不在bù zài 。


Tā bú zài jiā.

He is not at home.


bú zài běi jīng 。

I`m not in Beijing


Túshūguǎn bú zài gōngyuán de běibiān.

The library is not to the north of the park.

2.Grammatical features of the verb 在

1.The aspectual particles 了 着 or 过 , cannot be used after 在.

2. 在 cannot be reduplicated. 3. Nouns or pronouns denoting persons cannot be used independetly as the object of the preposition 在 to show locality。 They must take 这儿zhè er or 那儿nà er.。

For example : 他在我这儿。 tā zài wǒ zhè ér. He is at my place. 我在朋友那儿。 wǒ zài péng yǒu nà ér. I`m at my friend`s place.


2. The preposition, 在 plus a noun indicates a location

在 zài also functions as a preposition. As a preposition, it indicates the location where an action occurs. Depending upon the sentence, it may be translated into English as ‘at,’ ‘in,’ or ‘on.’

The sentence structure is : subject + + verb. or sometimes subject + verb + 在phrase.


Tā zài jiā chī fàn.

He eats at home.


chē zū chē tíng zài lù kǒ.

Taxis parked at the intersection.


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