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What? Chinese Words are Easy?

Chinese words are easy

Word Structure: Verb-What 述宾式

This is part 2 of an 8-part series exploring all 7 types of Chinese compound words. Click below for the other parts:

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

Verb-What 述宾式

We call this type of Chinese word the Verb-What category because the first morpheme is always a verb, and the second morpheme indicates what is receiving the action of the verb. They can be verbs, nouns, or adjectives. 


吃饭 chīfàn- to eat

Verb: to eat 吃. To eat what? A meal 饭.

抽烟 chōuyān- to smoke cigarettes

Verb: to smoke 抽. To smoke what? Cigarettes 烟.

说话 shuōhuà- to speak (words)

Verb: to speak 说. To speak what? Words 话.

担心 dānxīn- to worry

Verb: to carry or to shoulder 担. To carry or should what? One’s heart 心.

骂人 màrén- to scold

Verb: to scold 骂. To scold what? People 人.

伤心- shāngxīn- to break one’s heart

The first morpheme 伤 means to harm or to hurt. What is being hurt? A heart 心. Thus the meaning of “to break one’s heart” makes perfect sense.

上万 shàngwàn,上山 shàngshān

When used as a verb, 上 means “to go on, to go on top.” The first word here is abstract, but a direct translation would be “to go above 10,000 (万)”. The second is less abstract; it means to go on a mountain 山. The mountain is the morpheme receiving the action.

出名 chūmíng,出国 chūguó,出门 chūmén,出口 chūkǒu,出厂 chūchǎng,出奇 chūqí,出水 chūshuǐ,出土 chūtǔ

All of these examples will illustrate the idea of first explaining that something is “coming out or exiting” (出), and then what is receiving this verb. 出国 means “to leave the country.” 出水 means “to come out of the water,” 出土 means to excavate, or “come out of the soil.” First the verb, then what is receiving the verb.

下水 xiàshuǐ

Verb: Go Under 下. Go under what? The water 水。

有时 yǒushí,过时 guòshí

Verb: To have 有, to go over 过. Have/go over what? Time 时.

灭火- mièhuǒ

Verb: To extinguish 灭. To extinguish what? Fire 火.

消炎- xiāoyán

Verb: To eliminate or dispel 消. To dispel what? Inflammation or infection 炎

点名- diǎnmíng

Verb: To call out 点. To call out what? Names 名. (Roll Call)

过量- guòliàng

Verb: to overdue 过. To overdue what? The amount 量.

消灾- xiāozāi

Verb: To eliminate or dispel 消. To dispel what? The disaster 灾.

作文- zuòwén

Verb: to do 作. To do what? Your school assignment 文.


知己- zhījǐ

Verb: to know 知. To know what? Oneself 几. As a Noun: An intimate friend

司机- sījī

Verb: to operate 司. Operate what? A machine 机. As a noun: Driver.

管家- guǎnjiā

Verb: to manage 管. To manage what? A house 家. As a noun: Housekeeper

立夏- lìxià

Verb: to establish 立. To establish what? The summer 夏. As a noun: The Start of Summer

护膝- hùxī

Verb: to protect 护. To protect what? Your knee 膝. As a noun: Kneepad


有钱 yǒuqián- rich

Verb: to have 有. To have what? Money 钱.

有用 yǒuyòng- useful

Verb: to have 有. To have what? Usefulness 用.

丢人 diūrén- embarrassing, be disgraced

Verb: to lose 丢. To lose what? Yourself (person) 人.

动人- dòngrén

Verb: to move (emotionally) 动. Move what? People 人.

有名- yǒumíng

Verb: to have 有. To have what? Fame (or a name) 名.

好奇- hàoqí

Verb: to be fond of 好. To be fond of what? The strange of interesting 奇. (Curious)

烦人- fánrén

Verb: to annoy 烦. To annoy what? People 人.

在内- zàinèi

Verb: to be located 在. To be located where? Inside 内.

有力- yǒulì

Verb: to have 有. To have what? Power 力.

So there you have it, Chinese words are easy after all!

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