I learned that in Chinese counterproductive is 起到反作用 or 起反作用

I'm trying to figure out what the characters or words mean in this phrase.

I know 作用 means result or effect here, 反 means opposite. How does 起 fit in here and what part of speech is it? Is 到 necessary, or is it a completed action marker here?

Many thanks!


起 = establish

作用 = effect

起作用 = take effect

反(opposite) --> (opposite of positive = negative)

起反作用 = take opposite (negative) effect --> The opposite result of the intended goal = counterproductive

When your action cause a positive/productive effect, that is 起(正面)作用

When your action cause a negative/ counterproductive, effect, that is 起反面作用 = 起反作用

正面 in 起正面作用 is omitted because the term 'effect' is presumed positive.


突襲起了作用 -- The raid took effect (a positive effect/ result of improving the odds of winning)

突襲起了反作用 -- The raid took opposite effect (a negative effect/ result of worsening the odds of winning)

'到' in '起到作用' is a verb particle that indicates the verb is succefully completed

  • Great, makes sense! – Curiosity Apr 25 at 23:00

I think you can see it nicely here:

Some measures adopted in response,
such as export restrictions,
led to (a) strong counter-effect. = have been highly counterproductive.

起到: give rise to
反作用: opposite, counter-effect

  • Thanks, the example helped. – Curiosity Apr 25 at 23:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.