Would you like some goldfish tea?

In Taiwan, there is a type of tea bag which transforms into the shape of a goldfish when put in hot water. You can see it in action in the video below.

Cute, right? OK, now that we’re in a good mood from watching the video, let’s begin today’s lesson. In this lesson, we will learn two grammar patterns used together with verbs.

In the video, you can see that by pulling the string attached to the tea bag, you can make the “goldfish” swim back and forth. Let’s learn how to say this in Chinese.

Verb + 一 + Verb

In the sentence above, “动一动[dòng yí dòng]” means “move a bit ”. It’s today’s first grammar pattern.
This pattern is used to express that something is done just a little bit or lightly. You must use the same verb on front and back of “一”。 For example:

  • 听一听[tīng yì tīng] listen a bit
  • 闻一闻[wén yì wén] smell a bit
  • 想一想[xiǎng yì xiǎng] think a bit
  • 看一看[kàn yí kàn] look a bit

Note the tone for “一”. When the following character is first, second or third tone, “一” is read yì, but when the verb is fourth tone, “一” becomes yí. This might seem complicated, but if you practice the sentence below it might get easier, because the sentence contains all the tone combinations.

Got it? Not too difficult, right?

Verb + 来[lái] + Verb + 去[qù]

Now let’s have a look at another grammar pattern which repeats the same verb twice, also present in the first sentence above. Can you find it? It is “游来游去[yóu lái yóu qù]”(swim back and forth).

This structure can be used when you want to say that you are doing something without a clear direction. It is similar to the English expressions “this way and that”, “here and there”, etc. The same verb is repeated before both 来[lái] and 去 [qù]. For example:

  • 跑来跑去[pǎo lái pǎo qù] run here and there
  • 走来走去[zǒu lái zǒu qù] walk here and there
  • 看来看去[kàn lái kàn qù] look here and there
  • 想来想去[xiǎng lái xiǎng qù] think here and there

Let’s practice.

That’s it for today’s lesson about verb grammar patterns. Did you find it useful?
See you next time!

This is the accompanying blog post for our elementary lesson “Goldfish Tea“.

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