I learned that Chinese uses coverbs instead of prepositions. But it's not 100% clear to me what the difference is between coverbs and prepositions, as the Wiki page and several sites are hand-wavy, saying "they take the place of prepositions but they are kind of like pretty much prepositions anyways". Hard to grasp from statements like that.

So in English we might have sentences like:

I walked around the tree.
The tree is behind me.
I am about to walk to the tree.

I am not 100% sure, here, either, that I am using around and about as a preposition, but if I am not please correct me with valid sentences using these prepositions. But I know the behind is a preposition.

How would you write those in Chinese? Not only the Chinese writing, but the literal linguistic gloss (or something close to it, a pseudo gloss so-to-speak). That way, I can see where these "coverbs" are actually coming into play. But not only that! Please write the gloss using ONLY VERBS where the coverbs are supposed to go. Wikipedia makes this extra confusing when they do this:

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They put "cóng" as "from"!!! Well, from isn't a verb in English. What is the appropriate verb that should be used to clearly show this is a coverb?? They do slightly better with "arrive(to)", but still, they throw that "to" in there to create more confusion.

Using my examples, how do you conceptualize of "behind" as a verb? I would think, "to be behind", but there "be" is the verb, not the "behind fact". If I were to try harder, I would say "the tree be [position is back of me] me" or something like that. Still not getting it. Same with "about", how would that be thought of as a verb?

I am working on a fantasy language and I don't like the idea of prepositions at all in English, so I am looking for how other languages get around the problem. It turns out Chinese is one language which seems to avoid them for the most part. But I don't get it at an intuitive level yet. Please help illuminate how they work.


Prepositions come in two types: where and whereto.

In my opinion, there will never be language without prepositions, because they locate things in time and space, or spacetime. Our brains are hard-wired to do that.

"coverb" is a linguistic fantasy used to try to explain something that linguists don't understand. It is deliberately couched in vague terminology so that no one can say, "That's wrong."

"Coverb is a grammatical term that can have several different meanings but generally denotes a word or prefix that resembles a verb or co-operates with a verb."

If you will accept that all words 'cooperate' with verbs after some fashion, then all words are coverbs.

Your three sentences in Chinese:

I walked around the tree.
I moved around tree walk

The tree is behind me.
树在我的后面。 tree in I 的 de behind side

I am about to walk to the tree.
I aboutto want walk to tree

Merry Christmas!

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