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I've asked quite a lot of native speakers about this and the general consensus seems to be that there is no significant difference in meaning between "欢迎你到中国来" and "欢迎你来到中国" (and similar sentences), but "欢迎你到中国来" seems to be the more common and natural version.

There definitely is an important point that many people seem to be unaware of, which is that "欢迎你到中国来" can be used to make invitations ("you're welcome to come to China"), although Chinese native speakers nearly always mis-translate this into "welcome to China" when speaking English. "欢迎你来到中国" is definitely only for when they've already arrived in China.

The tricky point here is that one or two native speakers I've asked believe that strictly speaking, "欢迎你到中国来" should only be used for invitations, and cannot be used if the person is already in China. But textbooks and many other native speakers routinely use it for "welcome to China".

So my question is: which is it?

  • A: "欢迎你到中国来" and "欢迎你来到中国" can both mean "welcome to China". "欢迎你来到中国" is only for this, whilst "欢迎你到中国来" can also be used for invitations.
  • B: "欢迎你到中国来" is only for invitations, and "欢迎你来到中国" is only for welcoming.

I'm looking for answers focused on these two options (even if neither is the correct explanation).

UPDATE BASED ON ANSWERS: It seems there is no definitive answer to this. The summary seems to be that A is mostly correct: these are pretty much the same. However, some native speakers believe that strictly speaking B is correct, even if people don't generally care about the difference.

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A's right. Both have the same meaning. –  CA55CE37 Mar 2 at 9:02
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I don't know how this relates to the other answers here, but the 來到 construction is the norm in Taiwan. I have spoken to several people from the mainland who comment on this and point out that the 規範 way of saying it in China is 到...來. I have heard several people say that this kind of construction is one of the reasons they can say that I have studied mostly in Taiwan, although this seems a bit unlikely since pronunciation (mostly 輕聲 usage, or the lack of it) is more likely to give me away. –  Olle Linge Mar 5 at 16:04
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I am a native speaker but not language specialist, thanks for @Earth Engine awared that.

In my opinion (not from authoritative textbook), strictly speaking, B. "欢迎你到..." means you are not in the place... we welcome you to there; "欢迎你来到" means you are already there, we welcome you.

However, except very formal situation or someone who is extremely sensitive with language, most people in China will not care about the difference. In fact, I thought these two expressions are essentially the same in the beginning. It took me one minute to figure out there is a sutble difference.

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P.S. @Hugh since I am not a language expert and it is just my personal opinion, don't take my works seriously. –  Rodriguez Mar 2 at 10:48
    
I've accepted this because it corroborates what I've heard from other native speakers. It seems that people either don't think about it and say "they're the same", or they consider it more and say "well if we're being strict then they are different". –  Hugh Mar 2 at 10:48
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Earth Engine and appbead.com do have different opinions. I am wandering if it is necessary that I look for a Chinese website and call a vote... –  Rodriguez Mar 2 at 10:51
    
@Rodriquez - aware of that but what I'm interested in is how native speakers generally interpret this. –  Hugh Mar 2 at 10:51
    
@Hugn, thanks for that. I will look for some Chinese website and do a vote. –  Rodriguez Mar 2 at 10:52
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I am a native speakere as well, but I am not a language specialist. I think Rodriguez is not, as well.

I my opinion, Chinese language is loose and not a very strict language. So A looks more reasonable to me. There are a lot of cases that changing the order of words does not change the meaning. However, there are also some tricky case to the language learners.

Here is one example that came from a language specialist's book when I was young: “好不容易" and "好容易” (can) mean the same thing ("hardly"), but "很高兴“ and ”很不高兴" mean the exact opposite (“very happy" and "very upset").

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Yep, got these problems in any language! "inflammable" is always a good one in English. –  Hugh Mar 2 at 10:52
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I'm a native speaker, here is my opinion:

欢迎你来到中国! is a complete sentence, it emphasize that the opposite side already arrived in China.;

欢迎你到中国来! is an uncompleted sentence, the part of Purpose is omitted. or is an adverbial modifier, it's commonly following by a noun or phrase for purpose. e.g.

欢迎你到中国来访问!
欢迎你到中国来旅游!
欢迎你到中国来玩!

Also, 欢迎你来中国! can be used for invitations.

The masses may not strictly follow Chinese grammar in daily life. Moreover, each of the local has its own dialect, this may affect their expression also.

So, the option A is more right than B.

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This looks true for me. Change the order of words may not affect the meaning, but affects the aspects to be emphasized. –  Earth Engine Mar 2 at 22:00
    
I don't thinks this is true. I would argue that 到中国来 is a sort of 宾语前置. –  Ma Ming Mar 24 at 14:25
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