Can somebody please help me in the translation of this phrase?


What does 起来 mean in this context?

  • 1
    看起来 = it seems (or word for word: it begins to look as if). 起来 = start, 看 = see. 看起来 = 好像.
    – user4452
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 19:36
  • Let me give a try! 起來 literally (words for words translation) means〝rise up〞, so 看起來 is, kind of, equivalent to "look from a general (3D) perspective" and thus 看起來不大 would means "Look no further like a big one". With that, the tranlation would be "The bookbag doesn't look like a big one".
    – Jesse
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 3:30

4 Answers 4


起来 in this case is used as an adverb. It is combined with the verb together as a phrase. 看起来 means looks as if. The people who is saying this sentence may not really look inside the volume of that bag, but only guess it would be big enough for carrying things, or fit someone's figure.

You can also make some other phrases in the same way, such as 闻起来 for "smells", 吃起来 for "tastes", etc.

  • "这道菜闻起来很香". This dish smells delicious(but might not tried yet).
  • "这道菜吃起来很香". This dish tastes good.

In such cases 起来 has nothing to do with the meaning get up.


This school bag is apparently not big (enough).


As Chu Rui said 看起来 means look as if. It is right. But what I want to mention is that if 起来 is after a verb, most time focus on the feeling of your behavior. In this sentence , 看起来 focus on the the feeling which is that the bag seems not big through your eyes.

In Chu Rui’s example, 闻起来 and 吃起来 , they all focus on the subjective feeling of the behavior. 闻起来 means smell but is different from single word , 闻起来 make the sentence focus on the the feeling of the object which is good or not.

There is a pattern when use Verb+起来. You can follow this way:

Subject + Verb + 起来 + Adjective.

The adjective is used to describe the subject through one kind of behaviors. The central point of this sentence is the Adjective you used to describe the subject.


"起來" changes the voice from active to passive. In English we have eat and taste. Similarly in Chinese we have "吃" and "吃起來." So when I eat a bread, I "吃" a bread, and the bread tastes good to me, so it "吃起來" very good.

Also you can say "嚐起來," where "嚐" means to taste something, e.g. I tasted that dish which would be I "嚐" that dish, while that dish tasted good being it "嚐起來" quite good. Notice the difference between the two meanings of taste.

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