Is this the most versatile verb in Chinese?

Word of the week: Shang


As a preposition shàng 上 means on or up, but as a verb it has so many meanings that it is difficult to translate into English.

If you’re studying or teaching in China then the most common usage might be shàng kè, which could mean to start a class or attached a class. Similarly, if you’re working you can say shàng bān to mean start or attend work. jǐ diǎn shàng bān? What time do you start work?

shàng can also mean get on or ride, as in shàng chē: to get on and ride a train or a bus. You can also say wǒ shàng le tā, which literally translates as “I got on and rode him/ her.” It shouldn’t take too much imagination to guess what that means…


Chinese people often don’t queue when they shang che

If there is something you really like to do you may even shàng yǐn (become addicted.) Fortunately Chinese beer, at an average of 2.5% alcohol, is very unlikely to make you shàng yǐn.


If you drink and smoke you can easily shang yin

For many Westerners the phrase shàng fàn is extremely useful. If you don’t like the Chinese habit of serving all the dishes and waiting for you to finish them before finally giving you bowl of rice then next time you go to a restaurant you can say xiān shàng fàn.

Although xiān shàng fàn means “first serve rice” it’s still very unlikely the waiter will actually bring the rice first. If you’re lucky you might get the rice and dishes at roughly the same time.

The opposite of shàng is xià 下, the preposition for down or below. So as a verb xià kè means end class, xià bān is finish work, xià chē means get off a train or bus… For both shàng and xià the list could go on indefinitely.