接 (jiē) and 接到 (jiēdào) in Chinese grammar: answering and receiving
The verbs 接 (jiē) and 接到 (jiēdào) make a nice way to look at verbal
complements in Chinese grammar. They’re both used to talk about answering and
receiving (e.g. with a telephone), but the way they work grammatically is
different and they have different meanings.
The difference lies with 到 and the change it makes to the meaning of a verb.
By comparing 接 and 接到, you’ll get a gentle introduction into how 到 works and
Chinese verbal complements in general.
接 (jiē): to answer
On its own, 接 is a simple verb meaning ‘to answer’ or ‘to connect’. Originally
接 does mean ‘receive’, but its meaning is not as complete as ‘receive’ in
English. The Chinese 接 is an action verb, and only describes the
attempt. We don’t know from 接 alone the result of the action.
In the following examples, 接 is used in this way as a simple action verb:
As you can see, whilst the action of answering or receiving a phone call is
described, the result of the action isn’t made totally clear.
接 can also mean ‘receive’ in the sense of meeting someone, especially at a
particular time and place. Have a look at some examples:
Again, notice how the action itself is described, but the actual result of the
action isn’t specified. The last sentence might seem like it does describe the
result of 接, but look closer. It actually says that no attempt to 接 anyone was
made, so there’s no result.
To specify the result of what happens when you try to 接 something or
someone, you need 到. Let’s take a look.
接到 (jiēdào): to receive
When you add 到 after 接, you make it clear that the action was achieved or
completed. 到 is the result of trying to 接 something. You may know that 到
means ‘arrive’, and this sort of makes sense here: our action of trying to 接
“arrived” at its target destination.
Many verbs in Chinese work in this way; on their own they don’t specify the
result, but adding 到 (or one of a range of other result complements) makes the
Have a look at some examples with 接到:
The examples have been translated into English with ‘manage to’. This is a
little unwieldy, but makes the meaning of 接到 clearer
Now some examples directly comparing 接 with 接到:
This has been a short taster of result complements in Chinese grammar. Hopefully
it’s made 接 and 接到 a little clearer for you, and given you an idea of how
result complements work. If you have any questions, fire away in the comments.
This content was originally published here.