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Say It Right Series

How do I wrap my head around 'verb + 起来'?

Posted by xiaophil December 20, 2009 in the Group I Have a Question.

Tags: 起来

I can't handle it anymore.  There is a big fat hole in my brain waiting to be filled with the knowledge of how to use 'verb + 起来' properly in sentences.  I have done well in exercises where I have to determine whether to use 起来 or 出来 in conjunction with a verb, but I still don't know what 起来 really indicates and I rarely can predict when to use it.  I don't know if it is a flexible construction or if it is restricted to only being used with a few verbs.  Does anyone have this figured out?  Perhaps a staff member can clear this up?

Her are some examples from nciku.com:

起来容易做起来难。
It's easier said than done.
懒汉鞋虽然看起来不漂亮,但是穿起来很舒服。
Though ugly, loafers wear comfortably.
虽然他看起来身形有些胖,但跑起来犹如离弦之箭。
Though he is a little fat, he runs as fast as an arrow.
大家都干起来了,你怎么还按兵不动呢?
Everybody else has started work. Why do you sit there doing nothing?
这两句念起来拗口。
These two lines do not read smoothly.

把东西包起来
wrap things up
用布把伤口包裹起来
Bandage up the wound.
把这幅画好好保藏起来
Preserve the painting carefully.
把小孩子抱起来
take a child in one's arms
两个小演员拿长枪一比试,就开始对打起来
With a flourish of their spears, the two little performers started sparring with each other.
房子里家具不多,收拾起来很便当
There isn't too much furniture in the room. We can easily tidy it up.
这句话听起来有点别扭。
This sentence sounds a bit awkward.
这把铁锹使起来不得劲
This is an awkward spade.
他慢慢地,不慌不忙地从椅子上站起来,然后开始讲话。
Slowly and deliberately he rose from his chair and began to speak.
看他那滑稽的样子,我不禁笑了起来
He looked so funny that I couldn't help laughing.
我们决不能一见成绩就自满起来
We must not become complacent the moment we have some success.

把酒精跟水搀兑起来
Mix the alcohol with water.
不要为一点小事就吵起来
Don't squabble over trifles.
出了伏,天气就明显地凉快起来
The weather gets noticeably cooler when the fu days are over.
把鱼串起来
string the fish together
两个人打了起来
The two men came to blows.
团结起来力量大
Unity is strength.
人类社会是从大风大浪中发展起来
It is amid great storms that human society progresses.
咱们把任务担起来
Let's take on the job.
我一听这话,当下就警惕起来了。
Hearing this, I was instantly on the alert.
这把锹我用起来很得劲
This spade is just right for me.
这支笔写起来得心应手
This pen writes very well.


Aqua blue indicates I basically don't get it.  Yellow indicates I get part of it, but something remains unresolved in my head.
I think I understand these situations:
  • 起来 = rise, i.e. 站起来, 抱起来
  • 起来 = start, e.g. 两个人打了起来 (However, I don't know if this construction is flexible.  For example, can I say, “我把作业做起来了” (I started my homework)?"
  • 听起来= sounds like
  • 看起来= looks like
Thanks for any help!

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