Word of the Week: chū lái
Like the English “come out” you can use chū lái as a verb, to physically come out of a room or building. Unlike the English you can’t use it to mean coming out as a homosexual, for that phrase click here.
tā chū lái le (s)he has just come out (of the room /building)
However, by far the more interesting use of chū lái is the way that it can be placed after verbs to mean you can tell something is true by doing that verb. Confused? A couple of examples should make things crystal clear:
Somebody with a thick Beijing accent is talking to you, so ask them if they’re from Beijing. They’re surprised and ask you how you know, and you reply wǒ tīng de chū lái (I listen can come out/ I can tell by listening)
Your friend asks “how did you know I just ate some stinky tofu?” And you reply wǒ wén de chū lái (I smell can come out/ I can tell by smelling)
It’s important to use the particle de after the verb because in this sentence de means can. If you replace de with the negative bù it means “can’t tell”
I have a colleague who is British but one of his parents is from Singapore and so he looks just like a Chinese person.
wǒ kàn bù chū lái tā shì yīng gúo rén (I look not come out he is British person/ I can’t tell by looking that he’s British.)
However, he has a thick London accent.
dàn shì wǒ tīng de chū laí tā shì yīng gúo rén (but I listen can come out he is British person/ I can tell by listening that he’s British)
So basically we have sensory verbs see/ hear/ smell/ touch and we add de chū lái to mean “can tell” and bù chū lái to mean “can’t tell”. It’s that simple.
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