Chinese Prepositions: 25 Common Linking Words and How to Use Them

In life and in language learning, the small things really matter.

So it’s time to add another small element to your knowledge of Chinese grammarprepositions.

Prepositions are often found in all different parts of Mandarin sentence structures. But don’t fret, 学生 (xué shēng) — student!

Once you’ve got the prepositions in this post down, you’ll be well on your way to greater fluency (and maybe passing that next Chinese proficiency test, too).

So let’s go over exactly what Chinese prepositions are and 25 of the most common (and useful!) ones you’ll want to know.


What Are Chinese Prepositions?

Prepositions are words that provide a way to understand the relationship between two words or sentence sections, connecting nouns, pronouns and adjectives. The word or section that the preposition leads into is called the “object.”

Prepositions are vital to understanding English, and even more so with Chinese. They can be used to describe time, place, actions and much more. Once you grasp how to use prepositions, you can easily put together sentences on the fly.

An English example would be:

Please add a dab of butter.

So how can we translate this into Chinese using the correct preposition and word order? Well, luckily, Mandarin operates on a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) basis, just like English.

The preposition of the sentence will be(de) — of. It’s the word that connects two concepts together to make one solid statement. So here’s that same English sentence in Chinese:

(qǐng jiā shǎo liàng de huáng yóu.)

Pretty simple, right?

While this translation might be fairly straightforward, they won’t all be that easy. There are some differences in terms of preposition location.

For example, take this sentence:

I will see to it.

In Chinese, however, this would be:

(yóu wǒ lái zuò.)

Here, our preposition (由) comes at the very beginning of the sentence.

Sometimes, prepositions can come at the end of the sentence, too, although this is less common. Most of the time, they’ll remain in the middle, similar to where they are in English.

Now, let’s go over the most common Chinese prepositions!

25 Common Prepositions in Chinese

1. 关于 (guān yú) — About

(wǒ xǐ huān kàn guān yú māo de diàn yǐng.)
I like to watch movies about cats.

Note that in this sentence, the preposition comes closer to the beginning.

2. 以上 (yǐ shàng) — Above, More 

(tā yǒu sān bǎi běn yǐ shàng de shū.)
He has three hundred or more books.

The preposition links 他有三本 to the concept of having more than three books, but not a precise number.

3. 其中 (qí zhōng) — Among

(nǐ shì qí zhōng zuì shuài de yī gè.)
You are the most handsome one among them.

In Chinese, the preposition is at the forefront of this sentence, connecting 你是 with the idea of being handsome. The preposition helps make it clear that the person you’re talking to is the most handsome person in the group.

4. (zài) — At

(wǒ huì zài jiā lǐ děng.)
I will wait at home.

This preposition is in a spot that makes more sense to beginners, but it may still seem a bit off because the direct translation is, “I will, at home, wait.”

5. (qián) — Before

(zhōng wǔ qián huí jiā.)
Go home before noon.

前 can also be used as a noun in a sentence. So remember to look for context clues!

In this sentence, the time description comes first, then the preposition, then the action. Remember, Mandarin typically follows SVO sentence structure.

6. (páng) — Beside

(tā dài zài wēn nuǎn de gōu huǒ páng biān.)
She stays beside the warm bonfire.

7. 之间 (zhī jiān) — Among, Between

(wǒ zài hěn duō rèn wù zhī jiān qiē huàn.)
I switch among many tasks..

The rough translation of this sentence is “I’m here, jobs in between.”

The sentence establishes the existence of the subject, the existence of the possession of jobs or gigs and the distinction of not exactly possessing a job yet.

8. (yóu) — Is, For

(zhè yóu wǒ fù zé.)
I am responsible for this.

Literally, “This is my responsibility.”

9. 尽管 (jǐn guǎn) — Despite

(jǐn guǎn nǐ bù wán měi, wǒ réng rán ài nǐ.)
I love you despite the fact that you are not perfect.

Like I mentioned before, sometimes prepositions come right at the start of the sentence. In this sentence specifically, the addition of 尽管 changes the meaning of the statement 你有缺陷 from “you have flaws” todespite you having flaws.”

10. 除了 (chú le) — Except (for)

(chú le xià lín méi yǒu rén lái.)
No one came except for Xia Lin.

Notice the location of this one at the front of the sentence, once again.

11. 为了 (wèi le) — For

(tā huì wèi le ài ér zuò rèn hé shì qíng.)
She will do anything for love.

This one literally says, “She will, for love, do anything.” Note that you may sometimes see 对于  (duì yú) in place of 为了.

为了 is also notably different from number eight above, 由, which can also mean “for.” 由, however, is used as a preposition meaning something is “as the result of” or “because of.” 为了 is used to talk about doing something “for the purpose of,” or “in order to” do something. 

12. 在…附近 (zài…fù jìn) — Near

(zài jiào táng fù jìn)
near the church

While these three characters are on opposite sides of the phrase, they only make sense when they’re all present.

13. (de) — Of

(tā suǒ yǒu de péng yǒu dōu hěn yǒu qù.)
All of his friends are fun.

的 is a preposition you’ll see a lot in Mandarin. Be aware that this word can also be used to announce possession, as in:

(nǐ shì wǒ de péng yǒu.)
You are my friend.

The addition of 的 in this sentence changes the word 我 from “me” to 我的, “my.”

14. 至于 (zhì yú) — As for

(zhì yú wǒ, wǒ xǐ huān měi shí.)
As for me, I love delicious food.

至于 is another really convenient and simple preposition that almost always comes at the beginning of a sentence.

15. (wài) — Outside

(zài cān tīng wài miàn děng.)
Wait outside of the restaurant.

16. (zì) — Since

(tā shēng bìng hòu, jiù biàn dé hěn qiáo cuì.)
She has gotten haggard-looking since she got sick.

17. (bǐ) — Than

(nǐ wǒ hǎo.)
You are better than me.

This preposition comes directly after the subject of the sentence.

18. 通过 (tōng guò) — Through

(tōng guo dà mén)
through the gate

19. (zhì) — Until

(wǒ shàng jiǔ diǎn zhì wǔ diǎn de bān.)
I have work from nine until five.

This preposition makes more sense to English speakers than many other prepositions in Mandarin. The rough literal translation here is, “I am at nine until five for work.”

20. (xià) — Under

(yǐ zi de xià mian)
under the chair

21. 和…一起 (hé…yī qǐ) — With

( nǐ yī qǐ)
with you

Like 在…附近 from number 12 above, this preposition needs to include every character around the noun or pronoun in order to make sense.

22. (cóng) — From

(cóng zhè lǐ wǎng qián zǒu wǔ fēn zhōng.)
From here, walk straight ahead for five minutes.

As you can see, 从 is a useful preposition to know for learning directions in Chinese.

23. (wǎng) — To, Toward

(wǎng zuǒ zǒu.)
Go to the left.

往 is another good preposition for directions. This sentence literally says, “To the left, go.”

24. (duì) — To, For

(zhè lǐ duì wǒ lái shuō tài lěng le.)
It’s too cold in here for me.

As a preposition, 对 means “to” or “for” as in “with respect to.” So this sentence says, “This place, to me, is too cold.”

25. (gēn) — With, To

(wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ shuō yí jiàn shì.)
I want to say one thing to you.

You may find 跟 in place of prepositional phrase number 21 above, 和…一起.

How to Practice Chinese Prepositions

The best way to get better at using prepositions in Chinese is to make note of them in real-world Mandarin materials. For instance, you can find prepositions in:

You can also use language learning apps and programs to help you get the hang of Chinese prepositions.

FluentU, for example, is an immersive program that teaches you the language through authentic Mandarin videos like vlogs, music videos, inspirational talks and more. You can search for any word or phrase to find all the videos that use it.

All FluentU clips come with interactive subtitles in Chinese (simplified or traditional characters), pinyin and English, so you can hover over any word to see more about it. Clicking on a word will show further information, including pronunciation, example sentences and more.

With FluentU, you can also create multimedia flashcards out of any preposition or word to help you study, and then test yourself with quizzes personalized to your level and knowledge. This program is also available as an app (Android or iOS), if you prefer to learn on the go.

Once you’ve seen more Chinese prepositions in action, try using the prepositions yourself!

You can add in more prepositions while you practice writing sentences, chat with your Mandarin-speaking friends or even take Chinese class. And the more you do that, the better you’ll understand how to use prepositions in Chinese.


So, while prepositions may be in different “spots” than they are in English, it’s only a matter of switching a few things around to get them where they need to go.

You’ve just moved on to the next round of Mandarin learning. Good luck on your journey!

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