在 (zài) - Expressing Place & Location

In Chinese, to express where a person or an object is located, we use the word “在”, meaning “to be in/at/on”. The sentence follows the pattern: Noun + 在 + Place Word. 哪儿 (nǎr) is a place word used to ask "where somebody or something is".

S (不) Place Word
zài měiɡuó.
美国。

He is in America.

lìlì zài jiā.
丽丽 家。

Lily is not at home.

xiǎolǐ zài nǎr?
小李 哪儿?

Where is Xiao Li?

Positional Nouns such as 前面 (qián miàn), 后面 (hòu miàn), 上面 (shànɡ miàn), 下面 (xià miàn), 里面 (lǐ miàn), 外面 (wài miàn) can be used as Place Words.

S Positional Noun
shānɡdiàn zài qiánmiàn.
商店 前面。

The store is in the front (of the speaker).

háizi zài wàimiàn.
孩子 外面。

The kids are in the outside.

shuí zài lǐmiàn?
里面?

Who is there inside?

Positional Nouns can also be suffixed to other Nouns to form Place Words.

S PN-Suffix
chēzhàn zài wǒjiā hòumiàn.
车站 我家 后面。

The station is at the back of my house.

qiánbāo zài zhuōzi shànɡmiàn.
钱包 桌子 上面。

The wallet is on the table.

chēpiào zài xiānɡzi lǐmiàn mɑ?
车票 箱子里面 吗?

Is the ticket in the suitcase?

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