Pleco lists the following example sentence for 起草:


This indicates 起草 is a separable verb. And it's possible to find examples online of 起草 being used as a separable verb, such as 我已经了个 and .

However, looking at example sentences from YouDao we find examples like:


It seems this placement of the 了 is inconsistent with 起草 being a separable verb.

Question: Is 起草 a separable verb?

3 Answers 3


Is 起草 a separable verb?

Yes, in the dictionary《现代汉语词典》, separable words (离合词) are indicated with the symbol "//" in their pinyin, and 起草 is indicated as qǐ//cǎo.

起草 is a verb+object separable word.

verb: 起
object: 草

Anyway, there is an exception to the following general rule:


Verb+object separable words cannot be followed by an object.

The following sentence is wrong:


谈: verb
话: object
很多事情: object not allowed


A few verb+object separable words as 起草 can be followed by an object. They are still verb+object separable words, and all other rules still apply, so we would still say "起了草", "起过草", "起的草", "起完草", "草都没起", "起一起草", "起什么草", etc. But, we can also say:


一个文件: object (normally not allowed)

Some other exceptions are:

操心, 成交, 出口, 出席, 担心, 发愁, 放心, 进口, 列席, 留神, 留心, 留意, 缺席, 告別, 在意, 注意, 走私.

For more info see 品诗文网


Read this answer and you would know why a [verb + noun compound word] like 起草 can be separated into [verb and noun] and treated as such

Is "投个好胎" a proper set phrase/idiom? What does it mean?

"投个胎" break up the compound word "投胎" and treating 投 as a verb; 胎 as a noun. When 胎 is a noun, we can add classifier '个' (a) before it to indicate indefinite

Similarly, the compound word 起草 (to draft) is a single word, but it is made up of a verb 起(establish) and a noun 草(rough/ draft)

起个草 break up the compound word "起草" and treating 起 as a verb; 草 as a noun.

When 草 is acting as a noun, we can add classifier '个' (a) before it to indicate indefinite

Having 了 in 起草了 indicate 起草 is treated as a single compound word. There is no inconsistency because a separable verb is still treated as a single verb when it is not separated.

Basically, any compound verb that is made up of a verb and a noun is separable

  • Honestly, this is blowing my mind. We're taught separable verb grammar: 游了一个小时的泳 (and that 游泳了一个小时 is wrong). But 起草 can be used with inseparable verb grammar: 起草了一篇讲话稿. However, we can still write 我已经起了个草 where 起 and 草 are two words! It's like 起草 is both a separable and inseparable verb. Wow!!
    – Becky 李蓓
    Jan 2, 2022 at 1:05
  • 泳 in 游泳 can be either a verb (to swim) or a noun (a swim), but in 游个泳, it has to be treated as a noun; 游泳了一个小时 is wrong but 游泳游了一个小时 is correct; In [ 游泳(v+v)了 ] one of the verb is redundant, therefore we only say [ 游(v)了 ]
    – Tang Ho
    Jan 2, 2022 at 1:31
  • 1
    We say 游了泳 but not 游泳了, but we can say 投胎了or 投了胎 and 起草了 or 起了草. because 起草 and 投胎 are made up of verb and noun
    – Tang Ho
    Jan 2, 2022 at 1:42
  • 工作 (inseparable verb) = 工作了, not 工了作; 游泳 (separable verb) = 游了泳, not 游泳了; 起草 (separable / inseparable verb) = 起草了 or 起了草
    – Tang Ho
    Jan 2, 2022 at 2:06

这封信你来起个草吧。"You, (please) to write/initiate the preliminary (草) for this letter." Or, "This time, you write/initiate the preliminary (草) letter". In both cases, there is only one verb "to write/initiate".

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