Why is 在 usually placed before the verb but in other cases can come at the end of the sentence?

For example, what is the difference between: (1) 她在北京出生。 (2) 他出生在北京。

2 Answers 2


Normally the 'relative phrase that indicates location (在+ location)' is always placed before the verb


他在北京旅遊 cannot be changed to 他旅遊在北京

他在北京探親 cannot be changed to 他探親在北京

他在北京被捕 cannot be changed to 他被捕在北京

Why is 他出生在北京 and 他在北京出生 both correct?

  1. You can treat the sentence as [topic + comment] structure

['他出生' (his birth)] is the topic ['在北京' (was in Beijing)] is the comment

In other words, "他出生在北京" is short form of "他的出生 是在北京"

  1. or you can treat it as simple [S+V+O] structure

['他' is the subject] ['在北京' is the relative phrase] ['出生' is the verb] (no object)


I believe it is because 出生 is very short, so both of the sentences can be right. If the verb is very long, e.g. I had a good time in Beijing, you cannot say 我度过了美好时光在北京。

Besides, some people may think you are emphasizing the different part of speech. (1) 她在北京出生。She was born in Beijing (but not in Shanghai). (2) 他出生在北京。He was born in Beijing (maybe he went to Shanghai to spend his childhood). But I cannot tell the difference between the two sentences because of the lack of context.

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