Some Chinese verbs are separable (also called verb-object compounds), that is:

他今天三個鐘頭的 (He/she had three hours of class today)

Where 上課 is a separable verb.

As there is no rules on which verbs are separable and not, I'm looking for an online resource where I can look that up. For example, does CC-CEDICT contain info about which verbs is separable and not?

  • 2
    Some call them VO (verb-object) words, others call them 离合词 - you should be able to find a big list of them somewhere. Verbs that aren’t VO (a verb and an object, 看书,喝水,吃饭) can’t be split.
    – Mou某
    Jan 17, 2018 at 3:57
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    These verbs are called 动宾结构 or 动宾离合词 I think. ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary gives the distinction, calling such verbs “V.O.”. However this resource isn’t online. You can buy a copy; one option is as an add-on to Pleco - that's what I have. It’s very good! Jan 17, 2018 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


The Pleco app contains this information. It was actually confusing me for a while, but the //'s in the pinyin indicate verb separability. Pleco includes some free dictionaries, but it also allows you to download others for a price. I'm not sure if the verb-separation indications are tied to any particular dictionary.

Pleco app showing 上课 with pinyin shàng//kè

  • I believe this indication (shàng\\kè) comes from the "Pleco dictionary" which is inside the free version of the Pleco app. It's full name is "Pleco Basic Chinese-English Dictionary", there is copyright info available via the Manage Dictionaries screen. Jun 2, 2021 at 8:51

Don't do this.

When you learn mandarin, you should learn all possible meaning of verb noun, then counter check with your mother tongue language, and think whether it is logical even you speak with you mother tongue language.

In fact, in mandarin, you will have less confusion if you try to understand individual glyph. Once you get use to each glyph meaning, then you can start learn combination verb/noun/proverb.

Take 上课 as example, from young, native speaker learn the verb 上. Then there will be no surprise when one saw the variance , i.e. when 上 mean "go to do something", then it is obvious the noun like 课 make it an an action. So

  • 上课, 上课学习 (sound redundant but valid)
  • 上学
  • 上堂(Cantonese ), 上堂学习

Unlike English, German, etc you don't need to deal with abnormal verb changes. thus learning the root glyph let you understanding most written article without knowing tons of mandarin nouns.

  • 1
    Hmm, it's very important to know if a verb is separable or not ... because ehm if you separate a non separable verb you're not correct :) Feb 1, 2018 at 1:41

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