在 vs 着

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There are a lot of things to consider when choosing 在 and 着 when expressing "-ing". But consider two points:

(1) 着 expresses some state, 在 expresses an action in progress.

  • 他在开门。He's opening the door. (Picture the door half swung open.)
  • 门开着,进来吧。The door is open, come in.
  • 他在穿衣服。He's putting clothes on.
  • 他穿着衣服。He's wearing clothes.

(2) If you want to say "while... -ing", it's probably good to go with 着.

  • 他看着电视,电话响了。While he's watching TV, the phone rang.
  • 他看着电视,吃着饭。这时,电话响了。While he was watching TV, he was eating at the same time.
  • 他在看电视,所以没听见电话。He was watching TV, so he didn't hear the phone ring.

But there are a lot of subtle differences, it's better to learn 在 and 着 more closely on their own.


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