过 Guo in Chinese: 11 Uses as a Verb, Adverb and Aspect Particle

In a nutshell,  (guò) in Chinese represents the idea of passing some kind of boundary or limit—whether it’s abstract or concrete depends on how it’s used in a sentence.

In the fourth tone, it works as a verb or adverb. When it takes on the fourth tone, (guo) becomes an aspect particle. Find out all the different functions and meanings of guo in this guide.


The Chinese Radicals for Guo


Since Chinese radicals can provide semantic and phonetic clues to the meaning of words, you might be interested to see a quick breakdown of 过—this kind of context is great for committing new characters to memory. 

过 is composed of two parts:

(chuò) — walk

(cùn) — inch

This lets us know that the character has to do with some kind of movement over a short distance. You’ll also notice this as you encounter the word in native media, specifically with programs like FluentU that help you learn new words in context.

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(guò) as a Verb

Beginners will most likely recognize 过 as a verb. 过 on its own has several definitions, but it can also be combined with other characters to form compound verbs in Chinese.

Let’s take a look at all of the definitions of 过 when it functions as a verb.

过 — To cross (over)

Perhaps the most common definition of 过 is “to cross,” “to go across” or “to pass through,” which indicates the basic idea of the rest of the definitions.

(jī wèi shén me guò mǎ lù?)
Why did the chicken cross the road?

过 — To pass (time)

Following this notion of time, 过 can also be used when talking about the duration of time passing.

(gōng zuò zhōu guò de hěn màn.)
The workweek is passing slowly.

过 — To celebrate

If you want to discuss how you spend your time, particularly when concerning days off, holidays and such, 过 is the appropriate verb to use.

(nǐ zěn me guò xīn nián?)
How do you celebrate the New Year?

过去 (guò qù) — To go over or pass by

Here’s the first compound verb. With 去 meaning “to go,” it makes perfect sense that 过去 would mean “to pass by” or “to go over.”

(nín kě yǐ ràng wǒ guòqù ma?)
Can you let me pass by?

过来 (guò lái) — To come over

Because 来 means “to come,” it’s only natural for 过来 to mean “to come over (here).”

(guò lái yí xià, wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ tán tán.)
Come over here for a moment. I want to talk with you.

超过 (chāo guò) — To exceed or surpass

超 on its own means “to exceed” or “to overtake,” but 超过 is the full vocab term.

(tā chāo guò le wǒ de qī wàng.)
She exceeded my expectations.

(guò) as an Adverb

过 can also be used to modify a verb. In other words, it can manifest as a Chinese adverb, usually paired with another character.

过 adverbs can be placed before or after a verb in a sentence.

过度 (guò dù) — too (much), over, excessively

When you want to show something is overly or excessively done, you can use the adverb 过度.

(tā guò dù yùn dòng.)
He over-exercised.

经过 (jīng guò) — by, past

经过 has several definitions, meaning “pass” or “course” as a noun and “to transit” as a verb. As an adverb, it means “by” or “past.”

(sī jī kāi chē jīng guò le miàn bāo diàn.)
The driver drove past the bakery.

不过 (bú guò) — merely, (nothing) but, only, no more than

不过 can work as a conjunction in Chinese, translated as “but” or “however.” As an adverb, 不过 is placed before the verb in a sentence to mean “solely” or “(nothing) but.”

(qián zhǐ bú guò huì dài lái wèn tí.)
Money brings (nothing) but problems.

(guo) as an Aspect Particle

When pronounced with the fifth or neutral tone, 过 becomes a particle, more specifically, an aspect particle in Chinese.

Because tenses and verb conjugations at large don’t exist in basic Chinese grammar, the language relies on words known as aspect particles to demonstrate the duration in which the verb is occurring. Basically, an aspect particle is a function word that describes how an experience or action relates to a certain timeframe.

Verb + 过 marks a past experience or past action

When talking about actions that have been completed at an unverified point in the past, you’d place 过 immediately after the verb of the sentence. This is also very similar to the present perfect in English.

It’s worth pointing out that 过 implies that an action happened at a nonspecific time in the past, which is different from (le), another aspect particle associated with actions completed in the past.

(tā yǐ qián zuò guo dì tiě.)
She has ridden the subway before.

Although the Chinese “le” also demonstrates a past action, 了 indicates that the action was completed at a definite point in time, where the timeframe has already been defined in the statement or can be implied from context. Simply put, 了 is pretty much the same as the past simple tense in English.

Of course, you can still use 过 and 了 in the same sentence. 过了 indicates an action that happened sometime in the immediate past.

Negate 过 with (méi)

Now, if you want to negate a verb + 过, you would do so with 没 rather than (bù).

Most verbs are indeed negated with 不. However, when 过 as an aspect particle is involved, you’re discussing whether or not a subject has carried out the action, implying the “have + verb” construction. “To have” in Chinese is (yǒu), and because 有 is negated with 没, verb + 过 would also be negated with 没, where the sentence construction would be 没 + verb + 过.

This negated form can be translated to haven’t + past participle.

(wǒ qù guo wēn gē huá, dàn méi qù guo duō lún duō.)
I have been to Vancouver, but not to Toronto.

If you want to say that you have never done something before, you’d use the construction as 从来没有  + verb + 过.

You can also use the construction to modify the previous example. Notice the subtle difference.

(wǒ qù guò wēn gē huá, dàn cóng lái méi yǒu qù guò duō lún duō.)
I have been to Vancouver, but never to Toronto.


Even though guo in Chinese functions as different parts of speech, the central theme of the definitions is the passing of some kind of boundary, whether it’s physical or something more abstract like time. Thus, there’s really no need to be intimidated by all these definitions!

And One More Thing...

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