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It means "At university, she studied biology.", correct?

So far I've learned that location goes after the subject, but I've seen this construct twice now. The other time it was in a sentence that was translated (not by me) to "We are not allowed to eat inside the subway".

The "inside the subway" bit was again at the front of the sentence. It's not really any harder for me to read, but if I was asked write this sentence I'd probably forget and put the location after the subject.

Why does the 在...里 construct lead?

  • Yes, this means what you think it means (生物 is short for 生物学). In what kind of contexts have you learned that the location goes after the subject? Could you give some examples? I'm struggling to think of similar sentences where I'd phrase the sentence as "她X在Y", unless there's something else in the middle drawing away attention from the location. – 赵永 Chris Down Jan 12 '18 at 14:55
  • The book "Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammer" defines the basic sentence structure as "Who, (when) where, what." It follows with the example 我在家里吃饭. I feel like I've seen this in many of my duolingo lessons as well when, for example, saying "I studied Chinese in Beijing". – Josh Gagnon Jan 12 '18 at 15:08
  • I'm now confused about your question. Is it that 她 comes after 在X? If so, that makes basically no difference other than slight emphasis. 她在大学学习了生物 is also fine. – 赵永 Chris Down Jan 12 '18 at 15:14
  • Yes, it is essentially about 她 and its location relative to the location phrase. I suspect I've put too much importance on some of the pieces I've learned in my grammar books. – Josh Gagnon Jan 12 '18 at 15:37
  • "外国人实用汉语语法" ;介词结构(prepositional phrase)有的介词结构可以放在句首,表示突出、强调,语气上常有语音停顿,书面上常用逗号","表示。例如:对于这个问题,代表们的意见很一致。关于这件事,我们以后谈。由于种种原因,他不能出席这个会了。按照实际情况,你们处理吧。为了人类的进步,科学家们努力地工作着。 "实用现代汉语语法" :常用介词的用法,在:(2)在出发之前,排长就到各班进行了纪律检查。(3)在那些困难的岁月里,大伯父给了我们家很大的帮助。 – user6065 Jan 12 '18 at 16:36
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Assuming your question is about the placement of 她, either way is fine:

她在大学学习了生物 (she studied biology at university)

在大学她学习了生物 (at university, she studied biology)

The latter has somewhat more focus on it happening at university, but in this sentence it doesn't make much of a difference.

This basically goes for all kinds of situations, not just explicit 在, for example "我今天要去中学" and "今天我要去中学" are both equally valid, but the latter has more focus on the time at which the action will occur.

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