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The differences between “做” and “作” in Chinese

chinese homophone, chinese words, learning chinese

Here's a homophone pair that even native Chinese speakers have trouble with: 做 (zuò) vs. 作 (zuò). The differences and similarities between 做 and 作 are a bit confusing, but we down each character's use to a few points:

中文里有一对甚至连中国人都会混淆的同音字:"做"和"作"。这两者之间的不同和相同之处比较让人困惑,不过我们将这两个字的用法简化为以下几点:

 

做 (zuò)

 

CREATING SOMETHING TANGIBLE 制作有形的实物

 

你要跟我做晚餐吗?

nǐ yào gēn wǒ zuò wǎn cān ma?

Do you want to make dinner with me?

 

The object being created is "dinner." Similarly, 做 is also applied when talking about the production of other material things. For instance, "做蛋糕 (zuò dàn gāo)" means "make/making a cake" and "做衣服 (zuò yī fú)" means "make/making clothes".

这里,制作的对象是"晚餐"。同样地,"做"也适用于其他材料做成的事物。例如,"做蛋糕"的意思是"make/making a cake","做衣服"的意思是"make/making clothes"。

 

JOB OR ACTIVITY 工作或活动

 

你在做什么?

nǐ zài zuò shén me?

What are you doing?

 

Here the speaker questions what sort of activity is being done.

这里,说话者询问正在做的某个活动。

 

爸爸下星期去上海 做生意。

bà ba xià xīng qī qù shàng hǎi zuò shēng yì .

Father is conducting business in Shanghai next week.

 

"Conducting business" is the job/activity. Such applies in other cases as well. For example, "doing homework" would be "做功课 (zuò gōng kè)" and "doing worship" would be "做礼拜 (zuò lǐ bài)".

"Conducting business"指的是工作或活动,此类也适用于其他情况。例如,"doing homework"就是"做功课"的意思,而"doing worship"就是"做礼拜"的意思。

 

作 (zuò)

 

ABSTRACT OR NON-CONCRETE THINGS 抽象或非具体的事物

 

他的作风很奇怪。

tā de zuò fēng hěn qí guài.

His style is very strange.

 

"Style" is not material. It's a distinctive manner of doing something or a personalized appearance. Other terms that use "作" are "作用 (zuò yòng)" which means "effect/function" and "操作 (cāo zuò)" which means "operate".

"Style"不是物质,它指的是做事或个性外观所表现出来的与众不同的习惯。其他一些词语如"作用"用到"作",意思是"effect/function",还有"操作",意思是"operate"。

 

ARTS AND LITERATURE 艺术和文学

 

他是有名的作家.

tā shì yǒu míng de zuò jiā.

He is a famous author.

 

Other words related to literature and art also use "作," like "作曲" which means "to compose" and "作文" which means "composition".

其他与文学和艺术相关的也有用到"作",例如"作曲",指的是"to compose",以及"作文",意思是"composition"。

 

他在做作业.

tā zài zuò zuò yè.

He is doing homework.

 

To really know when to use each "zuò", spend lots of time to familiarize yourself with Chinese passages. Frequent exposure to phrases and words that contain either "zuò" will help you know when to use each homophone.

想真正理解什么情况下使用哪个"zuò",就多花点时间熟悉熟悉汉语文章吧。经常接触含有"做"或"作"的短语和词组有助于你懂得什么时候用哪个同音字。

2016-06-22

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