I'm interested in the the differences between English and Mandarin when they are talking about spatial preposition.

Can i assume that in Mandarin, they use the preposition 上 for most of the times disregard the spatial differences? For example, in English, there are word like "on", "above", "over", and they have different function in their spatial category, in which "on" should be higher than "above".

  • 1
    Hello PleaseHelpMe and welcome to CL&U! :) Can you include some examples to explain what you're asking and where is your problem? Thanks. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 10:48

2 Answers 2


In Chinese 「上」 just means above no matter further distance.

For addition description, you should use some degree words as:

上面一些 (means a little above)

Or add some given distance:

大概兩米以上 (approximately two meters above)

Actually I do not quite understand what you want to know.

  • +1 Interesting! On a side note, is it the same for 下?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 13:41
  • Thanks. I just need to make sure that there is no other word than "shang" in chinese that represent on/above, since there are many words in english such as above, on, over that can be use to convey the meaning of "shang". Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 14:12
  • @PleaseHelpMe If this answer solves your question, make sure you remember to accept it! :) By the way, did you see my comment under your question?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 16:36
  • @PleaseHelpMe I suppose there are no more other words to express 'above'.
    – shouya
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 18:36
  • @Alenanno For 'under', 下 (xia) might be the only word to express so also.
    – shouya
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 18:36

I think you miss the point in your attempt to understand the use of 上 to represent on, above or over.

The Chinese language proves there is no need for more than one word to do this as the necessary information is provided entirely in the context of the conversation.

For example, I am thinking of sentences that may appear difficult:

"The bird was on his head", "The bird was over his head"

Which could both be translated in Chinese to something like: “鸟在他头上”

Out of context you may try and guess whether it is right on his head or right above his head, however it could be either.

Here are some examples of how this could be expanded (taken from Google results):

  1. 有一只鸟在他头上飞过 — extended, no contact, vertical

    A bird flew over his head.

  2. 鸟在他头上做窝 — contact

    A bird built a nest on his head.

  3. 鸟在他头上飞了几圈 — extended, no contact, vertical

    The bird circled above his head a few times.

I would be interested to find an example sentence in English that can not be easily understood in context in the Chinese with the same amount of information.

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