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I found a sentence from a short story which goes:

"他指了指墙上的画。“

I know that 指 means to point, by why is it repeated twice in the sentence? Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you

3 Answers 3

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I'm surprised this hasn't been covered before here, I'm sure there must be a link somewhere that I was unable to find.

This is the V + 了 + V structure.

#Grammar 2. 动词的重叠 Reduplication of Verbs (II): V了V

Some verbs can be reduplicated in the form V了V structure to indicate that

  • the action takes only a short amount of time and/or
  • the action is done only for a limited amount of times
  • the action has already been done

The V了V structure is usually used for narration.

☑ See also 动词的重叠 Reduplication of Verbs (I): VV and V一V.

For the V了V structure , the verbs are duplicated in the following ways:

单音节词 (Dānyínjí Cí ▸ One-character Verb)

  • 听 - 听了听
  • 想 - 想了想
  • 笑 - 笑了笑

双音节词 (Shuāngyínjí Cí ▸ Two-character Verb)

  • 介绍 - 介绍了介绍
  • 练习 - 练习了练习
  • 休息 - 休息了休息

离合词 (Líhé Cí ▸ Two-character Detachable Compound Verbs)

  • 唱歌 - 唱了唱歌
  • 散步 - 散了散步
  • 游泳 - 游了游泳

Below are example sentences to study Reduplication of Verbs - V了V:

Yéye xiào le xiào, duì wǒ shuō: “Wǒ xiāngxìn nǐ!”
爷爷笑了笑,对我说:“我相信你!”
Grandpa smiled “really quick”, (and) said to me , “I trust you!”
Yè Jīnglǐ tīng le tīng wǒmen de jièshào, méiyǒu shuō bù, yě méiyǒu shuō hǎo.
叶经理听了听我们的介绍,没有说不,也没有说好。
Manager Ye listened to our introduction “really quick”, (they did) not say no, (did) not say yes either.
Nǎinai zuò zài yǐzi shang xiūixi le xiūxi.
奶奶坐在椅子上休息了休息。
Grandma sat on (the) chair (and) rested "really quick".
Wǒ yǐqián chéngjì bù hǎo, jīnnián nǔ le nǔlì, kǎo de búcuò.
我以前成绩不好,今年努了努力,考得不错。
Before my score (was) not good, this year (I) worked hard “for a little bit”, (I) took (the) test not bad.

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  • looks like there are many errors in your quotation, such as 介绍了介绍 练习了练习 休息了休息. Those phrases don't work at all. And 唱了唱歌, 散了散步, 游了游泳 looks old fashioned.We don't hear them often nowadays. But this is probably just me.
    – dan
    Sep 4, 2020 at 11:10
  • Some work better with "一", like 想一想 Sep 4, 2020 at 12:15
  • And, usually it can be replaced by V了一下 or V了下. Such as "指了指"→"指了一下"/"指了下", "笑了笑"→"笑了一下"/"笑了下", "散了散步"→"散了一下步"/"散了下步". "介绍了介绍 练习了练习 休息了休息", we don't say that phrases, but you can say "介绍了一下 练习了一下 休息了一下". > the action takes only a short amount of time and/or Sep 5, 2020 at 2:34
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奶奶坐在椅子上休息了休息。

我以前成绩不好,今年努了努力,考得不错。

It sounds pretty weird.

奶奶坐在椅子上休了休息。

我以前成绩不好,今年努了力,考得不错。 (e.g. 你今年成績不理想,明年努努力,應該可以考得不錯)

It would be more fluent.

離合詞

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他指了指墙上的画。

Verb + 了 + verb usually works well with one-character verb. E. g. 尝了尝,摸了摸,etc. It means you have slightly done something in the past.

A sister reduplication is Verb + 一 + Verb. E. g. 看一看, which also denotes you do something slightly(just like "have a look" in English), but it stands for a future tense.

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