I know that both are supposed to mean "to place" but are they interchangeable? I know that 摆 can be used in the following manner:

桌子上摆着三本书。

So could you also say something like

桌子上放着三本书。

and have it be a valid sentence?

  • cf."汉语动词380例" 摆/放**| **一、摆 1。他的屋子里摆着两盆花儿。动词"摆"的意思是把物件放在一定的位置,也表示把物品陈列出来供人观赏。如~椅子、~家具、~商品等。2。开会的时候,大家摆事实,讲道理。"摆"在这儿意思是把事实、理由等罗列叙述出来。如~条件、~理由、~矛盾等。3。有的人爱摆阔气。"摆"在这儿的意思是故意在别人面前显示或夸耀自己。表示这种意思时,不单独做谓语,常含有贬义。如~架子、~威风、~排场等。4。见到主人,那条狗不停地摆着尾巴。"摆"在这儿的意思是物体向相反方向来回移动或变动。如~手、~小旗等。 二、放 1。书架上放满了书。动词"放"的意思是把物件处于一定的位置。如~物品、~衣服、~自行车等。"放"和"摆"都有放置的意思,有时可以互换,它们之间的区别是:"摆"有排列出来供观赏的意思:"放"一般不含这种意思。2。明天放假,今天早点儿放大家回去吧。"放"在这儿意思是在一定的时间内停止工作或学习。如~学、~工、~暑假等。"放"还可以表示解除某种约束的意思,也表示使失去自由的重新获得自由的意思。如~人、~鸟、~俘虏等。"摆"不表示这些意思. – user6065 Oct 6 '16 at 18:24
  • 3。他从没放过枪。"放"在这儿是把某种物体发出去的意思。如~箭、~鞭炮、~风筝等。"放"也表示将光或气体等散发开来。如~光、~气、~味儿等。"摆"不表示这种意思。4。这菜太淡,再放点儿盐。"放"在这儿的意思是把某种物品添加进去。如~水、~糖、~牛奶等。"摆"在普通话中不表示这种意思,但在有的方言中使用。 – user6065 Oct 6 '16 at 18:30
up vote 1 down vote accepted

擺放

http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/15120/

lay, layout, place, set

-

http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/characters/2141/

[1] [v] lay; put; place; arrange

[2] [v] display; assume; put on

[3] [v] state clearly; talk about

[4] [v] wave; sway; swing; wag

[5] [n] oscillating device; pendulum

-

http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/characters/862/

[1] let go; release; set free

[2] let out; dismiss; take leave

[3] put; place; set; lay

[4] let off; set off; send out

[5] distribute; hand out; lend for interest

[6] send into exile; exile; banish

[7] (of flowers) blossom; come into bloom

[8] enlarge; lengthen; let out/down

[9] graze; pasture; put out to feed

The topic is the verb "to place". Both 擺 and 放 can be the verb for "to place", but 擺 also implies the object is placed in a particular position (arranged)

You can say 擺下陣勢 ( lay down a formation) but not 放下陣勢, because a formation has to be arranged.

桌子上摆着三本书。( more likely be neatly arranged)

桌子上放着三本书  ( either randomly or neatly positioned)

Both are valid but with subtle differences. 摆 is more like "put for display", while 放 is just "put".

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