How to use 碰 (pèng), 碰见 (pèngjiàn) and 碰上 (pèngshàng) in Chinese grammar

In this lesson we’re looking at three related but distinct words in Chinese: 碰, 碰见 and 碰上.

It’s always good to add more words to your vocabulary, but another advantage of lessons like this is that they give another angle into useful grammar structures.

And, as always, there are plenty of example sentences for you to mine.

碰 (pèng)

碰 is the simplest of the three words explained here. It simply means “to touch” or “to hit” (in a non-aggressive sense). This literal meaning lies behind the other two words.

Have a look at some example sentences:

他们碰了碰杯子。

Tāmen pèngle pèng bēizi.

They clinked their glasses together.

小心碰头。

Xiǎoxīn pèngtóu.

Mind your head.

别碰我!

Bié pèng wǒ!

Don't touch me!

她头一碰枕头就睡着了。

Tā tóu yī pèng zhěntou jiù shuìzhaole.

She was asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.

As you can see, 碰 is quite a versatile word, and can be used to describe various kinds of contact between two things.

碰见 (pèngjiàn)

Unlike 碰, 碰见 has quite a specific meaning. It means “to bump into”, in the sense of unexpectedly meeting someone. (See also: 碰见, 遇见 and 见面).

This is just a metaphorical extension of 碰, and is very similar to “bump into” in English.

Some examples:

我昨天碰见他了。

Wǒ zuótiān pèngjiàn tāle.

I bumped into him yesterday.

你猜我今天碰见谁了!

Nǐ cāi wǒ jīntiān pèngjiàn shéi le!

Guess who I ran into today!

我最近老是没碰见你。

Wǒ zuìjìn lǎo shì méi pèngjiàn nǐ.

I haven't bumped into you recently.

As with a lot of Chinese words, 碰见 makes a lot of sense when you break it down into its component parts: “hit” and “see”.

碰上 (pèngshàng)

Just as 碰见 is an extension of 碰, you could say that 碰上 is an extension of 碰见.

Like 碰见, 碰上 can be used to talk about meeting people unexpectedly:

我以前经常碰上她。

Wǒ yǐqián jīngcháng pèng shàng tā.

I used to bump into her all the time.

我碰上了一个老朋友。

Wǒ pèng shàngle yīgè lǎo péngyǒu.

I bumped into an old friend.

碰上 also has a further meaning, which is to encounter something other than a person. That sounds pretty creepy, but it’s actually just for situations like these:

看来我们要碰上一场暴风雨。

Kàn lái wǒmen yào pèng shàng yī chǎng bàofēngyǔ.

Looks like we're in for a storm.

我们谁都会不时碰上些小麻烦。

Wǒmen shéi dūhuì bùshí pèng shàng xiēxiǎo máfan.

We all encounter a few problems.

In these sentences, 碰上 could still be undersood as “to meet”, but in these cases it’s not about meeting people. 碰上 can be used in this way, whereas 碰见 is exclusively for talking about meeting people.

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