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Looking at phrasal verbs:

Check out my new computer.

They can be "separable" too:

Check my new computer out.

Does Chinese have this sort of feature? If not, what does it do instead? If so, generally how does it work?

3 Answers 3

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The first link explained Compound Chinese verbs made up of a verb and a noun can be separable by treating the noun in the compound verb as a noun, for example, 駕車 (drive) is made up of 駕(v) and 車(n), in this case, you can separate the verb and the noun and insert other elements between them

Example:

駕車 = drive

駕[長途]車 = drive [long distance]

駕[三小時]車 = drive [three hours]

駕駛 = drive

Since 駕 and 駛 are both verbs, they cannot be separated. 駕長途駛 and 駕三小時駛 are wrong

The second link describes separating a single semantic unit composed of a verb followed by a particle in English. These kinds of units are often translated into regular Chinese verb or "Verb + result compliment" form

The problem of transfer this English grammar into Chinese is they don't always follow the same structure

for example

Check out --> 查(v)看(v) - Both 查(investigate) and 看(see) are verbs, and cannot be separated

hollow out --> 挖(v)空(adv). You still can't separate them in this case

run into --> 遇(v)上(result compliment). You still can't separate them in this case

Even a 'v + n' word can only be separated by adjectives, not by a noun.

The answer is this English grammar structure is not transferable to Chinese grammar

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  • 挖空 is dig to emptiness. 空 would be adverb here.
    – 王博龙
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 4:13
  • 空 can be a verb, e.g. 空出一間房, 空掉箱中的物件
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 4:20
  • It can be a verb. Not here.
    – 王博龙
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 4:21
  • Also it should be pronounced as kòng in your usecase (空出一间房), but as in 挖空 it is kōng.
    – 王博龙
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 4:23
  • ok, even it is 挖(v)空(adv), it still can't be separated
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 4:24
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I cannot think of exactly the same Chinese grammar phenomenon as is described in the question. Such English verbal phrases are translated as just a verb in Chinese.

  • check out -> 检查
  • bring up -> 提出
  • take out -> 取出

Even for 提出 and 取出, where "出" is an adverb so you can consider those things as verbal phrases, they cannot be used separately by inserting the object of the verb in between.

One not so similar example I can think of is adding "不" in the middle to express negation.

取出 -> 取不出 (cannot take out)

Note that this is different from 没取出 (did not take out).

I would leave this to the OP to determine whether such use case is relevant.


PS: Chinese is quite different from English, so many grammar phenomenons do not map 1:1.

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If you mean how do you translate such English to Chinese, you first need to know if the phrase is meant literally or figuratively:

Pick that rock up.
把那块石头捡起来。

I picked up a girl at the party.
我在聚会上结识了一位女孩。

Check in to the hotel first.
先办理入住手续。

I need to check in on my mum first.
我需要先去看望一下我母亲。

Translating literal use will be straightforward. Translating figurative use will require you to know the literal meaning of the phrase.

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