How to describe “doing things at the same time” in Chinese?

In this busy world, don’t we all live in a multi-task life style? To describe things that are undertaken at the same time in Chinese might be a challenge to you if you don’t know what sentence pattern to use. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to.

Say you want to say: “He’s chatting with his friend while watching TV.”

For this type of sentences in Chinese, usually there are two sentence patterns you can choose from:

…( yī) biān…( yī) biān…



… yòu… yòu…

Before we start on examples, please spend some time to learn new words first.

péng you liáo tiān
 (and) 朋友 (friend) 聊天 (chat)
kàn diànshì dǎgōng
  (look at)  电视 (TV)  打工 (do labor job, work)
shàng xué yùn dòng yīn yuè 
上学 (go to school) 运动 (exercise, sports)  音乐 (music)


Let’s look at “…(一)边…(一)边…” first. To use this pattern, the example sentence could be rewrite into the following Chinese sentence:

tā yībiān hé péngyou liáotiān, yībiān kàn diànshì.


You can keep the “ “, or get rid of it. It’s all up to you, without “ “, the sentence become shorter. Comma is not must-to-have in this case.

tā biān hé péngyou liáotiān biān kàn diànshì.

和朋友聊天, 看电视.

In this sentence pattern, the “who” only appears in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. Let me show how the sentence was constructed in more steps, then it’ll be clear to you.

First, you have two independent sentences with the same “who” doing different things:

First sentence:
tā hé péngyou liáotiān.



Second sentence:

tā kàn diànshì.


Now, you want to tell people he’s doing the two things at the same time. Place “一边 “ and “一边 “ into the right place. Get rid of the “who” in the second sentence. Add a comma in the middle. Then you’re done:

 一边 和朋友聊天一边 看电视.

(the second “ 他“ is gone. ) Get it?

Alternative “…又…又…” can be used the same way, with or without comma.

So the example can be translated into the following too:

tā yòu hé péngyou liáotiān yòu kàn diànshì.


These two sentence patterns can also be used when the two things don’t happen strictly at the same time:

tā yībiān dǎgōng, yībiān shàngxué.


She’s working part time while studying in the university.

Another example:

tā yòu ài yùndòng, yòu ài yīnyuè. 


He not only loves sports, but also music.

Have you learned something new today? If you do, try to translate the following sentences into Chinese:

“I was dancing while singing.”

“My brother not only loves watching TV, but also playing games.”

You can use google translator or any dictionary you like to look up the words that you don’t know. Then use the two sentence patterns to translate the above sentences. Feel free to show your translation in the comment area.

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on  !  🙂


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