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I am learning Chinese on my own and I find myself getting the word order wrong on some sentences.

For example: 我們在一起合作很多年了 I sometimes mistakenly use this word order: 我們合作在一起很過年了

I realize this is a very basic question, but could somebody explain why 在一起 must come before 合作 in this sentence?

Also, what is the grammatical rule called, if I want to read up on this? In other words, what do I search for in order to find the grammar rule that applies?

3 Answers 3

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一起/ 在一起 means 'together'(adv)

In English, it goes after the verb; In Chinese, it goes before the verb

Example:

[一起]看電視 - watch TV. [together]

[一起]洗澡 - bath [together]

[在一起]看電視 - watching TV. [together]

[在一起]洗澡 - bathing [together]

我們在一起合作很多年了

在一起 = together

合作 = work together

'together' in 'We have worked together for many years together' sounds redundant

It is better not to use the adverb 在一起 (together) in this context:

我們合作了很多年了 - We have worked together for many years

or change 合作 to 工作(work)

我們在一起工作很多年了 - We have been working together for many years

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  • thank you for a comprehensive answer. Re. redundancy, I agree, but it is an example sentence from an online Chinese course, so I thought it was normal (a bit like doubling up certain words, e.g. 好好休息). I am glad that you clarified this point.
    – Laban007
    Aug 10, 2022 at 19:29
  • Agree. 在一起合作 is wordy.
    – joehua
    Aug 11, 2022 at 2:01
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According to Chinese logic, it can be simply and rudely understood as because, only "together" then "work together" So "together" first, then "together"

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  • According to logic, if you are working together, you are together already
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 10, 2022 at 18:43
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Both sentences are acceptable.

  • 我們 在一起合作 很多年了 - We together have cooperated for many years.

  • 我們 合作在一起 很多年了 - We cooperated together for many years. (Edit: While this sentence is acceptable, it can be objectionable, see comment below.)

Similar to:

  • 我們 在一起生活 很多年了 = 我們 生活在一起 很多年了
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  • Are you sure you can move 在一起 to after 合作? I just asked a couple of people, who both said no. I did find this sentence: 愿我们永远合作在一起!
    – Pedroski
    Aug 12, 2022 at 3:01
  • Positively yes. There is a very slight difference, "我們在一起" = "Together, we", here "together" emphasizes "we"; "合作在一起" = "corporate together", here "together" emphasizes "corporate". Overall, the reverse in position does not make much difference.
    – r13
    Aug 12, 2022 at 3:32
  • @pedroski Agreed with you; I would also say no. r13 is likely not a native speaker. I've seen him often committing to mistakes no native speakers will.
    – ALife
    Aug 16, 2022 at 11:12
  • @ALife Not all, or only, Chinese spoke perfect "Chinese/mandarin".
    – r13
    Aug 16, 2022 at 13:43
  • As @Teng Ho pointed out in the comment to the answer AdorablePaker, "合作在一起" can be objectionable because 合作 already implies working together, and "在一起" unnecessarily repeats the implication.
    – r13
    Aug 16, 2022 at 15:40

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