The Power of Chinese Characters - 用 yòng

Let’s take a look at the common verb “to use” 用 yòng to learn a bit more about how words are structured in Chinese while also getting a deeper understanding of the character itself.

I remember 用 by looking at its two main components, which are 月 with a stick through it 丨. 月 (yuè) as many of you already know is the Chinese character for “Moon”, and wouldn’t it be great if you could put the Moon on a stick and USE its light at nighttime?

用 can be used in a number of different ways when combined with other characters.

First, let’s look at these three resultative complements:

All of these words are starting with the verb 用 and then following it up with the result of said “use”. 用完, literally “use finish”, is the most generic way of indicating that you’ve used up something. Its finished now, so you can’t use it anymore. A cool way of telling someone to get more out of a physical activity is to tell them to 用力 (lì), which literally translate to “use power”, and can be applied to any situation where putting more physical effort into a given task (e.g. scrubbing a table). What if what you need to put more effort into “using” is more psychological in nature? Well, “use” your “heart” 用心 (xīn) to do the task “with concentrated attention”. 

If something is “useful”, it “has use”, which is the direct translation of the Mandarin word for “useful” 有用 (yǒu). If something is “practical” it has “real” (实 shí) “use” (用), and thus came the highly logical Chinese word for practical 实用.

Finally, if you ever simply want to say that there is “no need” for something, you can simply say 不用 búyòng. Often times after you thank someone by saying “谢谢” (xièxie- “thanks”), they will respond politely with “不用谢”, aka “No need for thanks”.

Are you starting to see how 有用 learning characters is? Keep it up and your ever-growing interest in the Chinese will never be 用完'd. 

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