You Might Be Overusing 跟 (gēn). Here's Why...

Look at the following sentences and guess how you would translate them into Chinese.

  1. I study with Linda. 
  2. I don’t like eating with chopsticks.
  3. How do you like your coffee, with our without sugar? 
  4. That’s a white shirt with blue dots.

Since the literal translation of with is  跟 (gēn) in Chinese, it would be easy just to use 跟 (gēn). 

  1. 我学跟Linda. (Wǒ xuéxí gēn Linda)
  2. 我不喜跟筷子. (Wǒ bù xǐhuān chīfàn gēn kuàizi)
  3. 你喜怎么的咖啡,跟糖是不跟糖? (Nǐ xǐhuān zěnme yàng de kāfēi, gēn táng háishì bù gēn táng?)
  4. 那是件白衬衫跟点点. (Nà shì jiàn bái chènshān gēn lán diǎndiǎn.)

Not so fast! Don't be so literal! Read the following tips to put you on the path to the right translations and if you know the right translations feel free to leave the in the comments.

 

“with somebody

  • “跟” (gēn) and “和”(hé)  both are correct, but remember it’s always placed before the verb:

“跟” (gēn)/ “和”(hé) somebody + verb 

  • Note that if you want to emphasize you are accompanied by somebody, use  一起(yì qi3) as well

Examples

  •  我今天跟/和朋友吃晚饭。Wǒ jīntiān gēn/hé péngyǒu chī wǎnfàn. (I will have dinner with my friend today.)
  •  我今天跟/和朋友一起吃晚饭。“跟” (gēn) / “和”(hé)   somebody 一起(yì qi3)
 

“with tools or manners”

  • You can't use “跟” (gēn)  when referring to the usage of a tool. You need to use “用”(yòng), which literally means “to use”.

“用”(yòng)something + verb

Example

  • 我用左手写字。Wǒ yòng zuǒshǒu xiězì. (I write with my left hand.)
 

“with something (added to)

  •  “加” (jiā) which means “to add” would be the best choice as opposed to “跟” (gēn)

Example

  • 我不喜欢加味精的菜。Wǒ bù xǐhuān jiā wèijīng de cài. (I don’t like dishes with MSG.)
 

“with features”

  • Use the verb “带” (dài) here, which originally means “to bring”

Examples

  • 带条纹的裙子 Dài tiáowén de qúnzi (a blouse with stripes)

Wang Rong (Emily) is a cofounder of GoEast and writes columns for the GoEast Blog on Chinese language learning, Chinese culture, and life in China as a language specialist. She holds a BA degree in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language and a MA in Comparative Literature. She has been teaching Chinese to foreigners since 2007 as a tutor and a professor in Universities.