City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar

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Adverbials of means express the meaning of adopting some methods or ways of conducting the action denoted by the verb. They are normally realized by phrases with prepositions: ‘yòng’ (with), ‘yǐ’ (with), ‘tōngguò’ (through), etc. Examples of means adverbials are:

1a. 群众用肉体的圈子紧紧地围住了母亲。

Qúnzhòng yòng ròutǐ de quānzi jǐnjin de wéizhù le mǔqīn.

(The people surrounded the Mother with a circle of their bodies.)

1b. 我之长,攻敌之短。

Yǐ wǒ zhī chánggōng dí zhī duǎn.

(Utilizing our strong points attacks the enemy’s weak points.)

1c. 用爱才能感受爱,用心才能温暖心。

Yòng ài cái néng gǎnshòu ài, yòng xīn cáinéng wēnnuǎn xīn.

(Only with love can you experience love, with heart can you warm heart.)

1d. 通过法律变革社会。

Tōngguò fǎlǜ biàngé shèhuì.

(Reform and transform society through law.)

1e. 通过和平手段解决纠纷。

Tōngguò hépíng shǒuduàn jiějué jiūfēn.

(Resolve disputes though peaceful means.)

1f. 你可以按这个钮停机。

Nǐ kěyǐ àn zhègè niǔ tíng jī.

(You may stop the machine by pressing this button.)

1f’ *你可以停机按这个钮

*Nǐ kěyǐ tíng jī àn zhègè niǔ.

1g. 我每天坐公共汽车上班。

Wǒ měitiān zuò gōnggòng qìchē shàngbān.

(I go to work every day by bus.)

1g’ *我每天上班坐公共汽车

*Wǒ měitiān shàngbān zuò gōnggòng qìchē.

The ‘yòng’ (with) and ‘yǐ’ (with) prepositional phrases express the idea of using an object (concrete or abstract) (as in (1a, b, c)) as a means of performing an action or the idea of adopting a way to achieve a goal or result. In (1a), for instance, the people tried to protect the Mother from being arrested by the policemen by way of surrounding her with their bodies. The phrases formed by the preposition (or verb) ‘Tōngguò’ (through) express the way of achieving a goal or doing something. Adopting a means describes a state, which starts with and continues with the action throughout the whole process until a result is achieved. Sentence (1f) contains a serial verb construction, the action of ‘pressing the button’ must be done first to achieve the goal of ‘stopping the machine’. Reversing the order of the two verbs would result in unacceptability, as in (1f’). Hence, in terms of the PTS, the adverbials of means are ordered before the verb.

[1] Loar, J. K. (2011). Chinese syntactic grammar: functional and conceptual principles. New York: Peter Lang.

answered Apr 30, 2021 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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