I'm learning《让我们荡起双桨》right now and at the beginning of the second verse it goes:



What function is 上 serving in the second line?

The three possibe translations I can imagine are:

  1. Sunlight spills on top of the sea surface.

  2. Sunlight from above spills on the sea surface.

  3. Sunlight spills on the sea surface ahead. (I only think this is a possibility because the 红领巾 in the first line gives that forward to glory vibe)

Since 上 can have any three of the above bolded meanings and my grammar is terrible, can someone illuminate me as to which of those translations is the most correct and what grammatical principle is at play in this sentence that I'm missing?

  • Welcome to Chinese Language SE! Not sure about your level of grammar but maybe this post might be helpful for you?
    – Blaszard
    Oct 25, 2017 at 19:09
  • @Blaszard that is helpful, thanks. I think part of my problem is I usually try to translate stuff word by word in my notebook, and that turns me around phrase-wise a lot of the time.
    – user239139
    Oct 25, 2017 at 19:42

2 Answers 2


在 。。。 上 = 'in' or 'on' or 'to' or 'upon' maybe more possibilities.

在历史上 'in history' 在桌子上 'on the table' 在某种程度上 'in a way, to an extent'

红领巾迎着太阳 Young Pioneers welcome the sun, 阳光洒在海面上 sunlight spills upon the sea,

(我更好去喝点茶, me, I'd rather drink some tea)

  • 1
    我更好去喝点茶 is not commonly used in mainland China. I'd rather drink some tea is 我宁可 (or 宁肯) 喝点茶. 更好 is "better" in verbatim. However I'd better drink some tea is 我最好喝点茶 than 我更好喝点茶.
    – Nathan
    Oct 25, 2017 at 22:38
  • Would "Sunlight spills onto the sea?" improve a bit?
    – dan
    Oct 26, 2017 at 0:10
  • 'onto' is good too! The word 'upon' contains 'upo', related to German 'ab' from an ancient word root 'apo' meaning 'from' 'under' or 'go down'. There is not really a sense of 'go up' in it, more a sense of 'go down to'. Someone made these poor kids get up really early and watch the sunrise. If I were there, I might have said, "I'd rather go and have a cup of tea." And I should have written '我更愿意去‘ or '我还是去’ I will never learn Chinese!
    – Pedroski
    Oct 26, 2017 at 5:48

Means all over the sea surface, the sun light has made the sea look like red. So 2 I would say.

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