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It seems like for some verbs (正)在 is used to indicate action in progress, but I have also encountered 着 for some, like 穿着. When should it be used, is there a rule to follow?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

This is used for both actions in progress and things that are happening in present tense, such as "she is wearing a dress".

I sometimes equate this to the -ing suffix.

Examples:

他穿西装弹吉他

He (She) is wearing a suit and playing guitar

你帮我看

Help me look out for him (her) (at this moment)

你看他扛那么大的一个东西

See him carrying such a big thing

However, this is not used as -ing with actions as you would expect:

This is wrong:

他在游泳着

The 着 here should be applied to the 游 i.e.

他在游着

Wrong:

他在弹吉他着

Right:

他在弹着吉他

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他正弹着吉他 is better than 他在弹着吉他, though I can't say 他在弹着吉他 is not correct. –  congliu Aug 25 '13 at 9:54
  1. Indicating action in progress.

    As shown by @xiaohouzi79's answer.

  2. Accompanying another major action.

    As shown by @trideceth12's answer.

  3. Special usage

    Sometimes, neither of the above two can tell the whole story. For example,

    走着瞧 (zǒu zhe qiáo) which roughly means Let's wait and see.

    你看着办吧 (nǐ kàn zhe bàn ba) which roughly means It's up to you.

    You can say it falls to case 1 in some sense. But I feel it's used as a whole, like an idiom.

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着 when used between two verbs signifies that the first action accompanies the second (main) action.

我喜欢躺着听音乐。 I like to listen to music lying down

他坐着看电视。 He sits watching television

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I agree. Like an adverb. –  congliu Aug 25 '13 at 9:59

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