Chinese Preposition 离 lí – Distance From in Chinese

Chinese Preposition 离 lí - Away From In Chinese
Measuring Distance in Chinese with 离 lí

How do people, places, things, events, etc., relate to each other? Is someone doing something “for” someone else? How about “to” them? What’s the origin “from” one thing to another, or distance “from” two places? We’ll discuss all of these in upcoming posts but for now, let’s discuss the Chinese Preposition 离 – lí (distance from in Chinese).

When I was a kid, the word “preposition” made my brain shut off. There was (and still is) something about linguistic jargon that aggravated me because it always felt so pointless. 

When I started learning about Chinese grammar, I came across the word 介词 jiècí – ‘preposition,’ but instead of my brain shutting off, I suddenly realized that prepositions are “relators.” 介 is the main character in the word “介绍 jièshào – to introduce.” Another way to conceptualize “introducing” is “to create a new relationship.” Now, the idea of a ‘preposition’ wasn’t so scary. They’re mere ‘relators’!

That’s why, in The Mandarin Blueprint Method, we refer to prepositions as “relators.” All sentences that contain a preposition will be marked with the tag “GW-Relator.” 

Chinese Preposition 离 lí – Distance From in Chinese

离 lí (distance from in Chinese)  is the relator to use when you want to compare the distance between two places. Most often, it’s only necessary to use it to express relative difference (i.e., close or far away). Therefore, 离 lí (distance from in Chinese) most often pairs with 近 jìn (close) or 远 yuǎn (distant).

Sentence 1:

公司离我家很远。 – Level 21
Gōngsī lí wǒ jiā hěn yuǎn.
The office is far from my house.

As you can see, the structure is 

Location 1 + 离 + Location 2 + Relative Distance.
公司 + 离 + 我家 + 很近

Sentence 2 – Chinese Preposition 离

我住的地方离学校不远,所以我每天骑车或者走路去上课。 – Level 27
Wǒ zhù de dìfang lí xuéxiào bù yuǎn, suǒyǐ wǒ měitiān qí chē huòzhě zǒulù qù shàngkè.
I don’t live far from school, so I go to classes by bike or on foot.

Instead of saying “我家 (wǒjiā),” the speaker says, “我住的地方 (wǒ zhù de dìfāng).” Like English, you can say “my home” or “where I live.” In this case, it’s “from 离 school 学校 not far 不远. Naturally, 不远 (bù yuǎn) and 很近 (hěn jìn) are merely two ways of expressing “close.” 

Sentence 3:

贵州离四川不远。 – Level 37
Guìzhōu lí Sìchuān bù yuǎn.
Guizhou province is not far from Sichuan province.

We hope you can see that this particular structure is straightforward. The only thing that can trip people up is the different word order compared to English, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

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