How Chinese Words Work

how Chinese words work

Word Structure: Verb-How 补充式

This is part 3 of an 8-part series exploring all 7 types of Chinese compound words. This is part 3 – How Chinese Words Work. Click below for the other parts:

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7 – Part 8

Verb-How & Generalising 补充式

These words are also mostly Verbs, but the second morpheme explains the result of the verb. How did you eat 吃 chī?I ate well 吃好 chīhǎo. 吃 is the verb, and 好 is the result of the verb. When these words are nouns, they are referring to the broad scope of all of the nouns.


说明 shuōmíng

Verb: to speak. The result of your speaking? Clarity 明. Definition: Explain

消灭- xiāomiè

Verb: to exterminate 消. The result of your attempt at extermination? to the point of extinguishing 灭. Definition: Wipe Out

寄出- jìchū

Verb: to mail 寄. The result of your mailing? You mailed it out 出.

作出- zuòchū

Verb: to do or make 作. The result of your making something? It was created 出.

过来 guòlai

过去 guòqu


上来 shànglái

上去 shàngqù


下来 xiàlái

下去 xiàqù


回来 huílái

回去 huíqù

回到 huídào

进来 jìnlái

进去 jìnqù


出来 chūlái

出去 chūqu

来到 láidào

起来 qǐlái


 All of these are directional verbs like Cross (过), Go Up (上) or Return (回).

The second morpheme is the result of the verb, like Come, Go, or Arrive 来,去,到.

Generalizing Nouns

These are a particular sub-set of verb-how words that are technically in the same category, but we thought we’d keep them separate here. As shown in the example in the introduction above, these words’ first morpheme is a noun and the second morpheme is the measure word for that noun. This signifies that the word refers to all of a particular noun, as opposed to a specific number.

车辆- chēliàng

All cars or vehicles, no one specific car or set of vehicles.

人口- rénkǒu

The population of a place, AKA not one specific person.

书本- shūběn

Books in general, not any individual book

马匹- mápǐ

Horses in general

船只- chuánzhī

Shipping Vessels in general

枪支- qiāngzhī

Guns in general

事件- shìjiàn

An event, but broader than 事情 (shìqíng) which could be very specific. For example, World War 2 was a 事件, but a single instance of Winston Churchill sending out an order during WW2 is a 事情.

纸张- zhǐzhāng

Paper in general

There you go, now you know more about how Chinese words work already.