To in Chinese – Chinese Preposition 对 Duì

Relator - 'Towards' a Target with 对

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 对 duì – to 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.” 

To in Chinese – Chinese Preposition 对 Duì

Foreigners in China tend to learn 对 duì as “correct,” which is indeed its most frequent usage. However, you can also use “对 duì “ as a preposition between people, places, and things to express “towards” or “to.” Unlike “往 wǎng,” however, the Chinese Preposition 对 duì (to in Chinese) doesn’t necessarily imply a destination. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Sentence 1 :

我对他说:我爱你! – Level 19
Wǒ duì tā shuō: wǒ ài nǐ!
I said to him: I love you!

Imagine that your friend overheard you from the next room saying “我爱你 wǒ ài nǐ,” but didn’t see who you said it to. You’d say to your friend, “我 Wǒ *对 duì* Henry 说shuō,” to clarify the target of your affections.

Sentence 2 – To in Chinese 对 Duì :

他对这件事不想多说。 – Level 22
Tā duì zhè jiàn shì bù xiǎng duō shuō.
He doesn’t want to talk much about this matter.

From here, you can see that the object after the Chinese preposition 对 duì can be abstract like “这件事 zhè jiàn shì.” It doesn’t have to be a person.

对 & Expressing Opinions

Sentence 3:

这些钱对他来说不少。 – Level 22
Zhè xiē qián duì tā lái shuō bù shǎo. 
This is no small amount of money, in his opinion. 

You can also write this sentence as “对他来说,这些钱不少. Duì tā lái shuō, zhèxiē qián bù shǎo.” This structure of “对 duì  […] 来说, lái shuō,” clarifies whose from whose perspective the statement derives. While it’s commonly used with pronouns (e.g., 对我来说 duì wǒ lái shuō – 对他来说 duì tā lái shuō – 对你来说 duì nǐ lái shuō), it doesn’t have to be. For example:

Sentence 4 – To in Chinese 对 Duì:

对我们说英文的人来说,学汉语比学别的语言难一点。 – Level 27
Duì wǒmen shuō yīngwén de rén lái shuō, xué hànyǔ bǐ xué biéde yǔyán nán yīdiǎn.
For us who speak English, learning Chinese is a bit harder than learning other languages.

In this sentence, instead of “他 tā” filling the blank of “对[…]来说 duì […] lái shuō”, we have “我们说英文的人 wǒmen shuō yīngwén de rén”. This goes to show that you can provide as much detail as you’d like about the person (or people) expressing a position.

What’s Your Attitude Towards

Sentences 5 & 6:

These two sentences show how you can use psychological verbs in combination with 对 duì to relate the attitude to whatever comes after “对 duì”.

她对她的男朋友不满意。 – Level 25
Tā duì tāde nán péngyǒu bù mǎnyì.
She’s not satisfied with her boyfriend.

你对我的同事感兴趣吗? – Level 29
Nǐ duì wǒde tóngshì gǎn xìngqù ma?
Are you interested in my colleague?

The structure is “Subject + 对 duì + Object + Psychological Verb.” Both 满意 mǎnyì and 感兴趣 gǎn xìngqù are quite common, but here are some more examples:

对⋯有兴趣 
Duì…yǒu xìngqù
To have an interest in…

有兴趣 yǒu xìngqù is nearly the same as 感兴趣 gǎn xìngqù, but it’s not as high a degree. Especially when you’re saying “对 duì + PERSON + 感兴趣 gǎn xìngqù”. To say that you are “感兴趣 gǎn xìngqù” towards a person reveals a potential romantic interest.

对⋯负责 
Duì…fùzé
To be responsible for…

对⋯失望 
Duì…shīwàng 
To be disappointed in/with…

对⋯好奇
Duì…hàoqí
To be curious about…

What’s Your Treatment Towards?

Another usage of 对 duì relates to the word 对待 duìdài, which means “to treat” or “treatment of [someone/something].” Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

Sentence 7:

不吃菜对身体不好。 – Level 26
Bù chī cài duì shēntǐ bù hǎo. 
Not eating vegetables is bad for your health.

Smoking? Not exercising? Drinking in excess? All of these behaviors are ways of treating your body/health (身体 shēntǐ) poorly. Now you know how to express this idea! Of course, you could also say something is good for your health by replacing the “不 bù” with “很 hěn”, for example:

多多运动对身体很好。
Duōduō yùndòng duì shēntǐ hěn hǎo. 
Frequently exercising is good for your health.

Sentence 8 – To in Chinese 对 Duì:

有什么办法可以找到一个对我又好长得又好看的男朋友呢? – Level 25
Yǒu shénme bànfǎ kěyǐ zhǎodào yíge duì wǒ yòu hǎo zhǎngde yòu hǎo kàn de nán péngyǒu ne?
What’s a good way to find a guy who treats me well and is also handsome?

Regardless of whether you’re expressing opinions, attitudes, treatments, etc., 对 duì relates how the subject is behaving towards the object. Keep your eye out for these usages as you move forward. That way, you can 对你自己很好 duì nǐ zìjǐ hěn hǎo (be nice to yourself). 

And if you want to learn how to produce, understand, and read every Mandarin syllable just like a native speaker in record time go ahead and check out our Pronunciation Mastery Course.

Chinese Prepositions
8 February , 2021
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