Intermediate learners of Chinese Mandarin encounter a fascinating concept during their studies: how a simple change in the position of a character could result in a completely different word.
Let’s look at an example. In 女人, the character 女 already means woman. However, we have to use the longer 女人 for “woman” if we want to express the phrase “she is a woman.” Nevertheless, even with this change, knowing the meaning of 女 will help you to quickly build up other terms such as 女王, 女主人, 女方 and 女友. In addition, knowledge of that character will allow you to immediately recognize that all of these words are related to the female gender.
Today, we are going to look at some more examples and go in depth.
The first set of words that we will look at are those whose meaning is not affected by the position of the characters. Thus, these words are like freebies! It doesn’t matter which character is said first, the meaning remains the same.
|累积||lĕi jī||to accumulate|
|积累||jī lĕi||to accumulate|
|代替||dài tì||to replace|
|替代||tì dài||to replace|
In these examples, you can see that even though the meaning changes, they are still somewhat related!
Cultural Note: If you watch films set in the 80’s, you will see little boys running around on the street distributing extra news publications. They will yell 号外, 号外! as they go.
|实现||shí xiàn||to achieve|
|事故||shì gù||incident, accident|
I love saving the best for the last. This set is my favorite because when you switch the position of the words, they actually tell you the function of the word!
You can even create palindromes with some of them, like the two examples below:
Now, let’s look at some more expressions, along with example sentences of their use.
|门锁||mén suŏ||door lock|
|锁门||suŏ mén||lock the door|
|刷牙||shuā yá||brush teeth|
|犯罪||fàn zuì||to commit a crime|
Little things like this make language learning so much more fun! I hope that seeing them in the example sentences above will help you to remember them, as well as help you to use them correctly.