Was wondering about ZAI and ZHE markers and their meaning. So we know that:

  • 在穿 - dressing. In other words we are in the process of obtaining\realizing the state of being dressed.
  • 穿着 - wearing. In other words we are in the state of being dressed which was obtained\realized.

but what are the best single word translations for:

  • 在想 -?
  • 想着 -?
  • 在雨 -?
  • 雨着 -?
  • 门在开 - The door is opening.
  • 门开着 - The door is open.
  • 在坐 - Taking a seat.
  • 坐着 - Sitting.

P.S. I would welcome anyone to append similar "pairs" to the list.

  • What do you mean by the "best single word translation"? Do you mean the equivalent translation in English, in one English word?
    – Blaszard
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 1:02
  • @Blaszard, yes, I would like to know the translation consisting of one English word" if it's possible.
    – coobit
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 10:42
  • @user6065, what is the difference between "V+着 action continues" and "在+V action is going on"??? Can this way of looking at things explain the difference between 在想 -?and 想着 -?
    – coobit
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 10:56
  • According to your dictionaries quotes we should translate rain situation in this manner: 在下雨 = "it is raining" and 下着雨 ="it KEEPS raining". Right?
    – coobit
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 11:01

4 Answers 4


The nuance between "在穿" and "穿着" is that the former emphasizes on my action and the latter on my status with clothing.

So "在穿" is associated with time. - "可以走了吗?" Are we ready to go now? - "等一下,我还在穿衣服" One sec, I am still putting clothing on.

While "穿着" indicates the status quo of with clothing on - 不懂为啥会着凉,我明明穿着很厚的衣服 Not quite sure why I got cold, I got lots of clothing on.

Also, baware of "穿着" indicates dress code as well, and 着 is pronounced as zhuo / 2nd tone rather than zhe.

  • Alright, and what about 在想 and 想着? How would you fit those examples into your view?
    – coobit
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 19:33
  • "在想" indicates action happening now. "我在想你" - I am thinking of you. "想着" indicates the status of thinking. "我想着你应该到家了" I thought (expect) you back home by now.
    – moiaussi06
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 21:47
  • Is it only pronounced zhuo in the noun, but zhe in your example?
    – Ludi
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 18:46
  • @Ludi That's right.
    – moiaussi06
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 20:15

我在想:I am thinking (about an idea)

我想着:(rarely used)

想着:while I am thinking.

Example: 我在想,地球是圆的还是方的呢?想着想着,就到家了。I am thinking whether the earth is round or square. While I was thinking, I arrived home.

雨 is a noun. 下 is a verb.

外面正在下雨 normal

外面下着雨呢 more casual

Both mean “It is raining outside”.

门在开:Invalid. 门 cannot take action.

门正被打开: The door is being opened.

正在开门: [Someone] is opening the door.

门开着: The door is open. 开 is a status.

在坐: (rarely used)

坐着: sitting

Example: 坐着的那个人是老张。The one sitting is Mr Zhang.

在座: in seat, seated

Example: 在座的各位观众,晚上好。 Good evening, ladies and gentleman (audience who are seated).

  • some users have been wondering whether there might not be a more general reason why 门在开. is invalid (validity already questioned 9 hrs earlier by other users (comment#9)). Note that it is of the type monosyllabic verb at end of sentence. As is well known (discussed here before) monosyllabic intransitive verbs cannot stand alone at the end of a sentence (must be followed by sth. else):婴儿死了,花儿谢了、你去吗?(exception: emphatic:谁去?)Adverb 在 does not seem to invalidate this rule. Thus 门在开着,门在半开着,浆水/酱汁在烧开
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 13:46

在 indicates an action is happening exactly right now. In English it is in correspondence with be V-ing.

我在穿衣服。 # I'm wearing the clothes. (or 我正在穿衣服)

着 indicates a state that is archived by an action and remains for a while.

我穿着衣服。 # I wear the clothes.

More on this blog post.

  • I've seen this post before. It made me think about the problem for some time earlier. After rereading it I wonder can we model effects of 在 and 着 by this formula:
    – coobit
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 10:51
  • 在+V =start X; V+着 =keep X; So 在下=" starting to get rainy" and 下着="keeps raining" or "it is being rainy"
    – coobit
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 10:54
  • But still in case of 想 this formula does not make much sence.
    – coobit
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 10:54

The functions of 在 and 着 are only superficially similar, and only when we translate into English. They can both be represented by -ing sometimes. German, for example, does not have this crazy -ing form and therefore you cannot translate using an -ing form, but you can of course translate.

What is known as the Present Tense in English is almost never used to represent the present time and perfectly indicates continuous action: Example: I live in China.

The translation of combinations of 在 and 着 depends entirely on the context and to some extent on the translator. A one-word translation for 在想 is 'think'.

我在想:I think / (German: Ich denke. (There is no 'I am thinking' in German.))
我想着:I think / Ich denke

每天都在下雨:It rains every day.
每天都下着雨:It rains every day.

You can use 在 and 着 together:

他在想 / 他在想着,各种影响能不能相互抵消。

You can use 在 when you are talking about the past, so don't assume it only applies to the present: (I borrowed moiaussi06's sentence and changed it a bit. Bonjour Moiaussi! Me too is a strange name.)

我当时在穿着很厚的衣服,所以我的胳膊动不了。(当时 puts this event clearly in the past.)

There seems to be some confusion here about 'wearing' and 'dressing'.

Phone rings, you answer.
Q: 你在做什么?
A: 我在穿(着)衣服。 I am getting dressed

Phone rings, you answer.
Q: 你在穿着什么衣服?
A: 我在穿(着)红色的外套。 I am wearing a red coat.

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