How to Make Your Exit in Chinese?

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One of the first verbs we learn in Chinese is 去, “to go”. This covers a great many everyday situations, such as “I’m going to Beijing”, “I went to eat lunch” etc. etc. But how about when the focus is more on the departure itself?

This post covers the differences between the Chinese words 去, 走, 离开, 出发 and 出国, all of which can be used when you’re taking leave of one sort or another, from exiting a room to leaving the country.

Learn these and you’ll really be going places with your Chinese (pun intended. sorry…)

Departures
From Financial Tribune

 / qù 

As the below examples show, with the verb 去 (to go) you can specify a noun or another verb afterward, to explain where you’ll be going or what you’ll be doing when you go. Example sentences:

Míngtiān wǒ huì qù guǎngzhōu

明天我会去广州。
I will go to Guangzhou tomorrow

Shàng ge zhōumò wǒ qù kànwàng wǒ māmā le.

上个周末我去看望我妈妈了。
Last weekend I went to visit my mother.

Wǒ yào qù shítáng chī wǔfàn.

我要去食堂吃午饭。
I’m going to the canteen to eat lunch.

 / zǒu

走 means “to leave” and places emphasis on the actual departure. It’s about generally making your exit, so unlike 去 you cannot specify a place or person after this verb. Example sentences:

Women zǒu ba.

我们走吧。
Let’s leave (i.e. let’s get out of here; often used in offices at around lunchtime!)

Tā gāng zǒu.

他刚走。
He just left.

Wǒ xiān zǒu le.
我先走了。
I’m leaving (literally “I go first”, say this when making a polite exit while others remain).

leaving
From Flickr Safaa35

 / líkāi

离开 also means “to leave”, but unlike 走 this verb implies permanence. You can 离开 a job, leave a person (i.e. a spouse), or leave a city to move elsewhere. With 离开 you can specify a place, person, company/job after this verb. Example sentences:

Bùyào líkāi wǒ. Wǒ ài nǐ!

不要离开我。我爱你!
Don’t leave me. I love you!

Yuèmò wǒ huì líkāi gōngsī.

月末我会离开公司.
I’m leaving the company at the end of the month.

Zìcóng tā líkāi Běijīng, wǒ zài yě méiyǒu jiànguò tā.

自从他离开北京,我再也没有见过他.
I haven’t seen him since he left Beijing.

A man sitting on a boat
From Labradorpassage

出发 means to start out or set off. It’s another verb that emphasizes the departure, but only in the context of going on a trip or journey etc.

Example sentences:

 

Nǐ zhěnglǐ hǎole ma? Míngtiān wǒ yào zǎo xiē chūfā.

你整理好了吗? 明天我要早些出发.
Are you all packed? I want to start out early tomorrow.

Zhè cì lǚxíng wǒmen jìhuàle hěnjiǔ. Zhōngyú dàoliao chūfā de shíjiānle.

这次旅行我们计划了很久。终于到了出发的时间了.
We’ve been planning this trip for so long. Finally it’s time to set off.

Wǒmen chūfā shí bìng méiyǒu yùjì dào zhème duō wèntí.

我们出发时并没有预计到这么多问题.
When we set off, we didn’t anticipate so many problems.

国 chūguó

This means to leave a country, go abroad or emigrate. There is definitely a sense of permanence here too. Example sentences:

Wǒ dǎsuàn chūguó liúxué

我 打算 出国 留学
I intend to study abroad.

Tā hé tā zhàngfū chūguóle

她和她丈夫出国了.
She and her husband left the country.

We hope this clarifies matters, so next time you can articulate exactly which kind of departure you’re making in Mandarin! Feel free to leave questions in the comments section.