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Alternation Expressions for Students Who Are Learning Chinese Language

Some students who are learning Mandarin in China, sometimes they may feel difficult to express the meaning of alternation. “忽而A,忽而B” and “忽A,忽B” are the most common pattern to express alternation in modern Chinese. learning Chinese language, you should know this kind of expression.

Movement alternation refers to an alternation that in a certain period two or more opposite or contrary movements appear successively and repeatedly. Generally speaking, in “忽而A,忽而B”, both A and B can’t be independent verbs; they should be used together with associated components. Such as,

a. 远处却有猫头鹰诡秘而惨厉的鸣声,忽而飘来,忽而中断,如一缕游丝。 (verb “飘” + complement “来”)

b. *远处却有猫头鹰诡秘而惨厉的鸣声,忽而飘,忽而断,如一缕游丝。

When “忽A 忽B” represents movement alternation, A and B should be limited in monosyllable verbs which have opposite meanings. For example,


Verbs in “忽而A,忽而B” and “忽A, 忽B” can’t appear in the patterns of both affirmative and negative. For example,

*忽而瞪,忽而不瞪 *忽而欢聚,忽而不欢聚 *忽死忽不死 *忽来忽不来

These expressions of movement alternation above should be noticed when you are learning Chinese language.

Character and state alternation refers to an alternation that in a certain period two or more opposite character or state appear successively and repeatedly. During the process of learning Chinese language, you can find that this situation can also be expressed with “忽而A,忽而B” and “忽A,忽B” , for example,

a. 我开动前挡风窗的雨刷,水被一层层刮去,前景忽而清晰,忽而模糊。

b. 过早袭来的西伯利亚空气伴着大风不时劲吹整个城市,使树木凋零,天空忽明忽暗。

When “忽而A,忽而B” represents character and state alternation, comparative components can be used behind the adjectives. But “忽A,忽B” can’t be used like this. For example,

a. 我在不断地爆炸声中走进一排哈哈镜,忽而瘦长如柳;忽而矮胖如坛。

b. *我在不断地爆炸声中走进一排哈哈镜,忽瘦长如柳忽矮胖如坛。

Many students who are learning Chinese language will make such kind of mistakes in the beginning, pay attention to it, you will benefit a lot.

Orientation alternation refers to that things appear in the opposite orientations in a certain period. Orientation words which can be used in these two patterns are limited, “东,西;南,北;上,下;前,后;左,右” etc. For example,


Sometimes, the use of orientation alternation can have a certain allusive color. This may be difficult to be felt if you learn Chinese language for only a short period. But as the time of learning Mandarin in Chinabecomes longer, I believe you will find the deep meaning.

learning Chinese language requires students to understand words meanings in specific sentences or context. They must make great efforts to improve their Chinese level.

In addition to these, there is action-object alternation. For this situation, “忽而A,忽而B” can be used, while “忽A,忽B” can’t be used. Pay attention to these four different situations and grasp the usages, then your Chinese expression will be enriched.

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