CC-CEDICT: 覆盖 (fù​gài​) to cover

I've noticed a discrepancy with the usage of 覆盖着 such as in:

[A covers B] 积雪覆盖着森林 (snow covers the forest) [Google]
[B covers A] 草覆盖着露水 (the grass is covered by dew) [Google]

Other examples where "A covers B" include 毛覆盖着它的身体 [Google]; 青苔覆盖着岩石 [Google]; and 双手覆盖着脸 [Google]. And other examples where "B covers A" include 山上覆盖着雪 [Google]; 浆果覆盖着霜 [Google]; 桌子覆盖着白布 [Google]; and 地面覆盖着报纸 [Google].

In the above examples, we can infer what is covering what from context alone, but this is not always possible, such as with:

左手覆盖着右手 (left hand 覆盖着 right hand) [Google]

I'm trying to come to grips with the grammar here. My guess is that in the "B covers A" cases, there is a "phantom 被" in use. Pleco also only lists "to cover" and not "to be covered by" as a definition of 覆盖, so I don't think there's an additional definition at play.

Question: How does 覆盖着 work grammatically, given that A覆盖着B sometimes means "A covers B" and sometimes means "B covers A"?

4 Answers 4


The Chinese language often does not have a clear cut on "active" and "passive" sentences, thus 覆盖着 can either mean " cover" or "covered". its meaning and proper uses in a sentence depend on the logical sense of the primary and secondary subjects, and modifiers are often required for the passive sentence to be clear, or to be a better sentence. For example:

  • 积雪 覆盖着 森林 Logically correct, as snow can cover forest, thus the sentence is an active sentence, the translation should be: "accumulating snow covers the forest". On opposite,

  • 森林 覆盖着 积雪 is logically incorrect, as forest can't cover snow, thus this sentence is a passive sentence, therefore, it should be made clear by changing to:

  • 森林"頂" 覆盖着 积雪. With the modifier "頂", this is clearly a passive sentence, and should be translated as "the (top of) forest is covered by snow".


  • 青苔 覆盖着 岩石 (Active sentence)

  • 岩石"上" 覆盖着 青苔 (Passive sentence, where "上" is modifier.)

More examples:

  • (*) 草"叢上" 覆盖着 露水 (Passive sentence); 露水 覆盖着 草叢 (Active sentence)

  • 山"上" 覆盖着 雪 (Passive sentence); 雪 覆盖着 山上 (Active sentence)

  • 桌子"上" 覆盖着 白布 (Passive sentence); 白布 覆盖着 桌子 (Active sentence)

  • 地面"上" 覆盖着 报纸 (Passive sentence); 报纸 覆盖着 地面 (Active sentence)

  • 浆果"上" 覆盖着 霜 (Passive sentence); 霜 覆盖着 浆果 (Active sentence).

(*) The sentence was modified from the original to make a better sentence.


There isn't a nice way to address this. We have to rely on context, tone, logic and etc. to decide the meaning.

Another typical example of this phenomenon is China always win game. E.g. 中国队大胜美国队(China win), 中国队大败美国队(China win).

  • 大勝美国 --> 戰勝美国; 大敗美国-->擊敗美国.
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 30, 2021 at 16:07


A covered B = [subject + verb + object]

Example: 雪(S)覆盖着(v)山(O)

雪覆盖着山 = snow covered the mountain (the subject snow applies an action to the object mountain)


A cover (by) B = [topic + comment]


山(topic) = the mountain

覆盖着雪 (comment) = is covered by snow

山覆盖着雪 = the mountain is covered by snow (the comment describes the topic)


(他)(不是这样)(踢的) -- SVO

(球)(不是这样踢的) -- Topic +comment

Depends on the context, you have to decide 'A' is a subject or a topic

  • "A mountain covers snow" doesn't make sense, so we know 山 in 山覆盖着雪 is not the subject

  • "snow covers mountains" does make sense, so we know 雪 in 雪覆盖着山 is the subject

  • 他踢 (S + V) makes sense

  • 球踢 (S + V) doesn't make sense


Agree with dan (Why don't you write Dan?), context, tone, logic, these are the important things.

Chinese is very logical.

被 by represents in Modern English what was the Instrumental Case in Old English.

Even when Chinese uses 被, the word order, vis-à-vis English is different.

Chinese has: instrument event
English has: event instrument


530 highway by thick de sand and fallen down trees cover
Highway 530 was covered by a layer of thick sand and fallen trees.


on one side can see little church de remains, now by dense de ivy cover
On one side you can see the remains of a little church, (remains) now covered by dense ivy.


Snowdon and its far mountain range all by snow covered
Snowdon and the further mountain ranges are all covered by snow.

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