Hello i have a doubt about where 在 has to be?

I have two references listed below about our matter. The first one talks about movement or location and the second about movement with displacement for the 在 to be after the verb. That second one I think is better.

For example verbs like 睡觉,站,坐,can have 在 after the verb. No movement is involved. like 弟弟不肯睡在房车里。 what about the 觉 。 why is it missing in this sentence? What about verbs like 想,考虑。where would you put the 在。 For example. I was under the tree thinking about the future. I am not moving can I say 我在想在树下面。 would be right or not? And I have another doubt. It says in the firs reference from wiki 我 学习 在 图书馆。Wǒ xuéxí zài túshūguǎn. is incorrect. but 学习 does not imply movement so I am a bit confused.

Could you solve my doubts and make it clear for me? thanks.

from wiki.

This pattern is used regularly with special types of verbs, including: 住 (zhù), 放 (fàng), 坐 (zuò), and 站 (zhàn). These are verbs that imply movement or location. Technically, the structure is called a location complement, but it can be understood without going into that much detail. Just remember that for verbs implying movement or location like the ones above, the default sentence order changes and you get this structure: Subj. + [Special Verb] + 在 + Location Examples 你 住 在 上海吗?Nǐ zhù zài Shànghǎi ma? Do you live in Shanghai? 他 坐 在 老板 的 旁边。Tā zuò zài lǎobǎn de pángbiān.He sits next to the boss. 你 应该 站 在 我 后面。Nǐ yīnggāi zhàn zài wǒ hòumiàn.You should stand behind me. 不要 坐 在我 的 床 上。Bùyào zuò zài wǒ de chuáng shàng.Don't sit on my bed. 你 的 衣服 不 可以 放 在 这里。Nǐ de yīfu bù kěyǐ fàng zài zhèlǐ.You can't put your clothes here. 不要 站 在 路 中间。Bùyào zhàn zài lù zhōngjiān.Don't stand in the middle of the road. 不要 坐 在 地 上。Bùyào zuò zài dì shàng.Don't sit on the ground. 那 本 书 我 放 在 桌子 上 了。Nà běn shū wǒ fàng zài zhuōzi shàng le.I placed that book on the table. 不要 走 在 草地 上。Búyào zǒu zài cǎodì shàng.Don't walk on the grass. 周末 我 不 想 待 在 家 里。Zhōumò wǒ bù xiǎng dāi zài jiā lǐ.I don't want to stay at home on weekends. Remember that this is an exception to the normal rule. A common mistake is to over apply this and produce incorrect sentences. Note the incorrect and correct versions below. 我 工作 在 上海。Wǒ gōngzuò zài Shànghǎi. 我 在 上海工作。Wǒ zài Shànghǎi gōngzuò.I work in Shanghai. 我 学习 在 图书馆。Wǒ xuéxí zài túshūguǎn. 我 在 图书馆 学习。Wǒ zài túshūguǎn

from a book

6.2 Dynamic and static differences A noticeable semantic dimension that affects the use of action verbs in Chinese is the difference between dynamic and static verbs. A dynamic action verb implies that the action travels across a certain space, whereas a static action verb does not. This can be clearly illustrated by the difference between ‘walk’ and ‘stand’: when one walks, one moves from one location to another, whereas when one stands, one either stays in one place or changes from a sitting position to a standing position and no change of location is involved. The dynamic or static nature of an action verb will decide whether a location phrase associated with it precedes or follows it. A dynamic action verb will have location phrases preceding it, whereas a static action verb may have a location phrase either preceding it or following it. For example: 他 在 公 园 里 散 步。 tā zài gōngyuán li sànbù He is having a walk in the park. *他 散 步 在 公 园 里。 *tā sànbù zài gōngyuán li He is having a walk in the park. 他 在 草 地 上 坐 着。 Nota 4. tā zài càodì shàng zuò zhe He is sitting on the grass. 他 坐 在 草 地 上。 tā zuò zài càodì shàng He is sitting on the grass. Nota 4 The addition of the particle 着 zhe to the verb changes it from narrative mode to descriptive mode. This will be discussed in

  • Chinese is difficult :_) Translation for "I was under the tree thinking about the future" should be "我在树下面思考未来“
    – sylvia
    Nov 7, 2019 at 21:33
  • Do you have to use 在...下面, not just 在...下 to say under?
    – O Connor
    Oct 8, 2020 at 10:02

2 Answers 2


"在" has at least two functions.

First "在" can be used to imply something is happening, for example, "我在学习(I am studying)", and in this case it comes before the verb. The verb doesn't have to be about physical movement.

Second you can use 在 as a preposition, implying the place where something happened/is happening/will be happening. For example, "我现在住在上海(I live in Shanghai now)". In this case it comes after the verb.

"睡觉在" is strange for a native Mandarin speaker. We would just say "睡在". "我在想在树下面" is also weird. The correct translation for "I am thinking under tree" is "我在树下面想".

  • 弟弟不肯睡在放车里。 is from a grammar book. The first function is totally clear. Is the second
    – ANTXON
    Nov 8, 2019 at 16:10

Try to write short, simple questions. You will get clearer answers.

It is important to know where things are. Chinese often locates things like this:

在雕塑前面 in front of the statue
在桌子上 on the table
在盒子里 in the box
在城墙后边 behind the city wall

[ ] = where or whereto This [where or whereto] is a location in space.

我把花放[在雕塑前面]。I put flowers [in front of the statue].
你的书[在桌子上]。Your book is [on the table].
你的猫在那个盒子里。Your cat is [in that box].
他的房子[在城墙后边]。His house is [behind the city wall].

A question you very often hear is:

你在做什么?= What are you doing?

You can think of this 在 as an abstraction over where in spacetime, because it involves location and time.


Talk about static and dynamic verbs is just confusing. Verbs are just words. Things may move or stand still. Your language should reflect this.

I am/was [under the tree], thinking about the future.

I am/was [in the library] studying.

He's [in the park] strolling. (He is moving, his location, [in the park], is static in time.)

  • I am still not very clear. why can you say: 弟弟不肯睡在房车里 (from my grammar book) and you have to put 在 before the verb in the normal construction like this 我[在树下]思考未来。In some of the examples you put before is totally clear since 在 is the verb and refers to a location 你的书[在桌子上]. In this cases 在 is allways after the object since talks about location an there is no other verb.
    – ANTXON
    Nov 10, 2019 at 17:12
  • [在房车里] = in the camping van, [在 ... 里] = in. [在树下] [在 ...下] = under. [在...上] = on. 你的书[在桌子上]. = Your book [where] 我[在树下]思考未来。= I [where] think about future.
    – Pedroski
    Nov 11, 2019 at 5:41
  • Still not clear why on one sentence 在 is before the verb and in the other after,
    – ANTXON
    Nov 11, 2019 at 15:07
  • 弟弟不肯 = Little brother not agree 睡[在房车里] = sleep [where] 我[在树下] = I [where](思考未来) = (doing what). [where] is a descriptive element. You just need to know what the descriptive element is describing. 弟弟[在房车里]睡觉。Little brother [where] sleep.
    – Pedroski
    Nov 11, 2019 at 23:58

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