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When waiting in line for seats at 南京大牌档 a few days back, a local famous eatery in Nanjing, Jiangsu, I heard a man say "别在外面站着,先进来吹空调".

This is a little weird. 空调 is air conditioner, how can people blow an air conditioner?

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  • 1
    To my knowledge the justification for such expressions as 吹空调, 晒太阳 has long been considered an unsolved problem in Chinese grammar.
    – magni
    Jul 28, 2023 at 16:41
  • 1
    In English, you can “kick your legs”, which doesn’t involve literally kicking your legs., but rather using your legs for kicking.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Jul 29, 2023 at 5:55

5 Answers 5

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别在外面站着,先进来吹空调。
Don't stand outside, once inside you can enjoy the airco.

Of course, you won't go in and blow on the air-conditioner! The air-conditioner is blowing, puffing out cool air!

Look up the ideas of ergative, which is also unaccusative, and unergative.

In 吹空调 you have a kind of Chinese reversed ergative expression which plays havoc with the syntactical notions of subject and object, but is perfectly understandable!

A doorbell can ring, but a doorbell can't ring itself!

I rang the doorbell.
我按了门铃。

Ergative: The doorbell rang.
门铃响了。

The air-conditioner blew cool air into the room.
空调把冷空气吹进房间里。

吹空调。

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I'm a native speaker and it always amazes me how weird some of the grammars are for some everyday phrases.

I think this one is derived from a more traditional phrase, 吹风(since air conditioner is a relatively new thing), which is also weird because it is not to "blow the wind" but rather "get blown by wind".

A lot of weather related expressions have this grammar:

晒太阳 to be bathed by the Sun

淋雨 to be showered by the rain

To be honest I'm not sure why, maybe because the subject is "it"( mother Nature ) so it got hidden?

BTW, 南京大牌档 is the best, I went there a lot during my undergraduate study in Nanjing. Pretty authentic.

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    Thanks. I often saw a long queue before that restaurant and wondered what kind of good food it could serve other than duck blood soup? LOL. Jul 29, 2023 at 8:36
  • @NanningYouth all the “淮扬菜” is good there: try 清汤狮子头! Jul 31, 2023 at 14:06
  • I might have eaten the food you mentioned. Is it the ball of meat that is cooked with some leafy vegetable in soup? Or the fish fried in deep oil? Aug 6, 2023 at 11:25
  • @NanningYouth yeah the meet ball in soup. Aug 8, 2023 at 14:04
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The full sentence "(你)先進來(吹)吹空調吧" is "grammarly correct". Here, 吹空調 is a compound word, or, a phrase, that was made to represent the action "讓風調/冷氣吹一吹" - "let the cool breeze (produced/blown by the AC) to cool you down". Below are a few examples of commonly used compound words/phrases:

  • 這風(吹得)好涼爽, "讓我們出去(吹)吹風吧" - "Let's go out to enjoy the cool breeze" (produced/brought by the wind).

  • 這太陽(曬得)真暖和, "讓我們出去(曬)曬太陽吧" - "Let's go out to enjoy the warmth (of the sun).

  • 這孩子, 才被雨淋病了, "她怎麽又出去淋雨了" - "How could she get wet (by exposing to the rain) again."

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Simple. Treat 吹空調 as one single group that has a meaning. Don't break it up.

In English there is "sunbathing," say. So how does the sun bathe, or how can people bathe in the sun?

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Is 吹空调 grammatically correct? Never have correct grammar in Chinese.
汉语是表意的,没有严格的语法。这里的空调相当于冷风的意思,空调这种电器发出的冷风。你这样看就明白了

快来吹空调发出的冷风 快来,让空调发风吹你

你吹空调,实际上是让空调吹你,或者:你被空调吹。空调不是宾语,不是你发出了一个动作,对空调做了什么。

同样的表达还有

他失恋了,晚上一个人在喝闷酒。

有一种牌子的酒,或者状态的酒,叫闷酒吗?没有!这句话实际上是

他失恋了,晚上一个人在闷闷地喝酒。

奇特的是,汉语在读的时候,把"闷"和"酒",连起来一起读,好像有种酒,它是"闷酒"。

请牢牢记住,汉语是表意的,它不讲究严格的语法,特别是口语。

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  • Good. How about 吹牛皮? Aug 6, 2023 at 11:23
  • 吹牛皮就不一样了,牛皮在这里是名词,做吹这个动作的对象。嘴巴能吹牛皮,说明嘴巴厉害,大话多。
    – showkey
    Aug 8, 2023 at 0:48

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