Chinese grammar: verb + 出来 (chūlái) construction

The verb + 出来 (chūlái) construction is a common pattern in Chinese grammar. It’s useful for adding information to verbs. There are two main usage patterns for the verb + 出来 construction. Learn how to use and understand them with this guide.

Verb + 出来 to express physical movement

The first usage of this pattern is to express physical movement. The characters 出 and 来 are literally “out” and “come”, so this pattern means “come out”. When verb + 出来 is used in this way, it simply expresses that the during the action of the verb, something comes out of something else.

This pattern is fairly easy to use. Simply place 出来 right after the verb, and you’re done.

Here are some examples:

我那么紧张,感觉心都要跳出来了。

Wǒ nàme jǐnzhāng, gǎnjué xīn dōu yào tiào chūláile.

I'm so nervous - I feel like my heart is going to jump out.

一个犯人从监狱里逃出来了。

Yīgè fànrén cóng jiānyù lǐ táo chūláile.

A criminal escaped from prison.

我从盒子里拿出来了一块巧克力。

Wǒ cóng hézi lǐ ná chūláile yīkuài qiǎokèlì.

I took a piece of chocolate out of the box.

As you can see, in this pattern 出来 expresses the physical movement of one thing out of another.

Verb + 出来 to express a result

The same construction can also be used to express more metaphorical meanings. These include:

  • the success of an action
  • the completion of an action
  • recognition
  • gaining information from an action

In any case, the meaning here is just a metaphorical version of the one above. Something is coming out from the action, but it could be information or some sort of result. Let’s look at some examples to make this clearer:

我能听出来他们的声音。

Wǒ néng tīng chūlái tāmen de shēngyīn. I recognize their voices.

你能吃出来大蒜的味道吗?

Nǐ néng chī chūlái dàsuàn de wèidào ma?

Can you taste the garlic?

他猜出来了这个字的意思。

Tā cāi chūláile zhège zì de yìsi.

He guessed the meaning of the character.

我帮你算出来这些东西的总价吧。

Wǒ bāng nǐ suàn chūlái zhèxiē dōng xī de zǒng jià ba.

Let me calculate the total cost of these items for you.

这是谁想出来的主意?

Zhè shì shuí xiǎng chūlái de zhǔyì?

Whose idea was this?

To make this structure negative, simply make it 不出来 or 没出来. Some examples:

这个问题太难了,我说不出来答案。

Zhège wèntí tài nánle, wǒ shuō bu chūlái dá'àn.

The question is too hard - I can't answer it.

我没认出来是她。

Wǒ méi rèn chūlái shì tā.

I didn't recognize her.

我想不出来他的名字了。

Wǒ xiǎng bù chūlái tā de míngzìle.

I can't recall his name now.

Another structure for verb + 出来

Note that there is another structure for this pattern. In this alternative structure, the object in the sentence goes between 出 and 来. The structure is:

[verb] 出 [object] 来

Here are some example sentences for this structure:

我能画出一匹马来。

Wǒ néng huà chū yī pǐ mǎ lái.

I can paint a horse.

他激动得说不出话来。

Tā jīdòng de shuō bu chū huà lái.

He was so excited he couldn't speak.

If you've got any questions or suggestions, please share them in the comments!

More A2 articles

  1. Using 了 (le) and 过 (guò) in Chinese grammar A2
  2. Five uses of 要 (yào) in Chinese grammar A2
  3. 以前 (yǐqián) and 以后 (yǐhòu) in Chinese grammar: before and after, past and future A2

See all A2 articles

Other articles for

  1. Chinese direction complements: Basic verbal directions with 来 (lái) and 去 (qù) B2
  2. Chinese grammar: verb + 出来 (chūlái) construction A2

Other articles for

  1. Chinese direction complements: Basic verbal directions with 来 (lái) and 去 (qù) B2
  2. How to use 拿起来 (náqilai) and 拿上来 (náshanglai) correctly in Chinese grammar B1
  3. Chinese grammar: verb + 出来 (chūlái) construction A2