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Lesson 11 How to describe “doing things at the same time” in Chinese?

Posted by Grace Feng on January 21, 2012

In this busy world, don’t we all live in a multi-task life style? To describe things that are undertaken at the same time in Chinese might be a challenge to you if you don’t know what sentence pattern to use. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to.

Say you want to say: “He’s chatting with his friend while watching TV.”

For this type of sentences in Chinese, usually there are two sentence patterns you can choose from:

…( yī) biān…( yī) biān…

…()…()

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

… yòu… yòu…

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Before we start on examples, please spend some time to learn new words first. You can use the estroke tool embedded underneath the new word table to help you on the stroke orders if needed.

péng you liáo tiān
和 (and)
朋友 (friend)
聊天 (chat)
 [mp3j track=”L11-he.mp3″]  [mp3j track=”L11-peng-you.mp3″] [mp3j track=”L11-liao-tian.mp3″]
kàn diànshì dǎgōng
 看 (look at)
 电视 (TV)
 打工 (do labor job, work)
 [mp3j track=”L11-kan.mp3″]  [mp3j track=”L11-dian-shi.mp3″]  [mp3j track=”L11-da-gong.mp3″]
shàng xué yùn dòng yīn yuè 
上学 (go to school)
运动 (exercise, sports)
 音乐 (music)
 [mp3j track=”L11-shang-xue.mp3″]  [mp3j track=”L11-yun-dong.mp3″] [mp3j track=”L11-yin-yue.mp3″]

 

  • You can copy and paste a few characters together into the box. They’ll show in the animation window one by one.
  • Once the stroke animation stops, click in the animation window and hit ENTER to replay it.
  • You can use the sliding bar to control writing speed of the animation.

 

Let’s look at “…()…()…” first. To use this pattern, the example sentence could be rewrite into the following Chinese sentence:

tā yībiān hé péngyou liáotiān, yībiān kàn diànshì.

一边和朋友聊天, 一边看电视.

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You can keep the “ “, or get rid of it. It’s all up to you, without “ “, the sentence become shorter. Comma is not must-to-have in this case.

tā biān hé péngyou liáotiān biān kàn diànshì.

和朋友聊天,看电视.

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In this sentence pattern, the “who” only appears in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. Let me show how the sentence was constructed in more steps, then it’ll be clear to you.

First, you have two independent sentences with the same “who” doing different things:

First sentence:
tā hé péngyou liáotiān.

他和朋友聊天.

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Second sentence:

tā kàn diànshì.

他看电视.

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Now, you want to tell people he’s doing the two things at the same time. Place “一边 “ and “一边 “ into the right place. Get rid of the “who” in the second sentence. Add a comma in the middle. Then you’re done:

+ 一边 + 和朋友聊天, 一边 + 看电视.

(the second “ 他“ is gone. ) Get it?

Alternative “……” can be used the same way, with or without comma.

So the example can be translated into the following too:

tā yòu hé péngyou liáotiān yòu kàn diànshì.

和朋友聊天看电视.

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These two sentence patterns can also be used when the two things don’t happen strictly at the same time:

tā yībiān dǎgōng, yībiān shàngxué.

一边打工, 一边上学.

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She’s working part time while studying in the university.

Another example:

tā yòu ài yùndòng, yòu ài yīnyuè. 

爱运动, 爱音乐.

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He not only loves sports, but also music.

Have you learned something new today? If you do, try to translate the following sentences into Chinese:

“I was dancing while singing.”

“My brother not only loves watching TV, but also playing games.”

You can use google translater or any dictionary you like to look up the words that you don’t know. Then use the two sentence patterns to translate the above sentences. Feel free to show your translation in the comment area.

春节快乐!

Happy Chinese New year and talk to you again tomorrow!

 

 

Related posts:

Reading, Listening and Speaking practice 3
Lesson 22 How to express "why on earth did this happen? " kind of questions in Chinese
Reading, Listening and Speaking practice 10

 

Category: Chinese vocabulary,JLC Chinese grammar lessons

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10 Responses to “Lesson 11 How to describe “doing things at the same time” in Chinese?”

  1. nothing

    TripleSun:

    01-22-2012 8:51 pm

    nice post!

    But just one point
    ”他又和朋友聊天又看电视.” sounds a little bit strange, though it is right.
    Just say 他边看电视边聊天 is OK more normal.

    Happy New Year!龙年大吉!

    Reply

  2. nothing

    Grace:

    01-23-2012 2:26 am

    Thanks for pointing this out, TripleSun.

    I agree that using “又…又…” in this context is a bit awkward. But just want to show the way to swap sentence patterns between these two.

    Happy New Year to you too!
    龙年好运!

    Grace

    Reply

  3. nothing

    kaviche:

    11-13-2012 8:49 pm

    Hi Grace, remember me ? the polyglot wannabe !
    so here are my translations – i had the toughest struggle into finding an equivalent for “not only” but finally i gave up translating that bit :

    我的哥哥又喜欢看见电视又喜欢玩游戏

    and

    this one, please tell me if i correctly expressed the continuity of an event in the past [ continous past tense/imperfect]

    我边跳舞了 边 唱着

    moreover i would be very grateful to you if you could explain to me how to express this tense , like when we say ” We used to live near the seaside long ago” or ” yesterday at this time, we were eating salmon”

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      11-14-2012 5:44 am

      Hi Kaviche,

      Of course I remember you :-)

      Your first sentence is 99% perfect. The only thing I need to point out is 看见电视 (see a TV set) should be 看电视 (watching TV).

      “not only … but also” should be strictly translated into “不但 … 而且…”. As in this context, it can also be translated using “又 … 又 …” pattern.

      我边跳舞, 边唱歌.

      Simple. You don’t need to explicitly express tense in every Chinese sentence as in English or many other languages.

      To express continuous past tense as in your question:

      “We used to live near the seaside long ago”
      很久以前我们曾经住在海边. (曾经 is a good subsititute for “used to”)

      “yesterday at this time, we were eating salmon”
      昨天这个时候, 我们在吃三文鱼. (place “when” phrase at the beginning, use “在” to express “continuous”, that’s it.)

      Hope this helps,

      Grace

      Reply

  4. nothing

    Laura:

    03-23-2013 6:21 pm

    他又和朋友聊天又看电视.
    他和朋友又聊天又看电视…both sentences have the same meaning right? Thanks for you answer!

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      03-23-2013 7:34 pm

      Laura, the meaning of the two sentences are similar. But there’s a slight difference:

      他又和朋友聊天又看电视. – His friend might not be watching TV while chatting with him.

      他和朋友又聊天又看电视. – His friend was watching TV while chatting with him.

      The reason for that is “he” was the subject of the sentence in the first sentence. However, both “he and his friend” are the subject in the second sentence. Got it?

      :-)

      Grace

      Reply

  5. nothing

    Dana:

    04-12-2016 6:24 pm

    Hi Grace!

    I love this website! Very helpful. Thank you for your efforts. 謝謝你!

    I have a question, though. Shouldn’t it be 「我一邊跟朋友聊天..」 instead of 「我一邊和朋友聊天..」?

    I’m not so sure, i’m still learning haha.

    Thank you! :)

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      04-13-2016 3:25 am

      Hi Dana, welcome! 欢迎你!

      As a matter of fact, 跟朋友聊天 and 和朋友聊天 are the same meaning. :-)

      Grace

      Reply

  6. nothing

    find-way.net:

    09-05-2016 6:26 pm

    ChineseMusings is a blog to help people to learn Chinese. You can also check out Ollie’s ebook “ Chinese character etymology ” where you’ll see stories and pictures for 150 of the most important Chinese characters.

    Reply

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