Definitely there are many ways to express actions; now I would like to share some with you.

1. The Verb

We are living in a dynamic world full of motion, that’s to say, motion is absolute and stillness is relative. Human beings are engaged in all kinds of actions and activities. Therefore, it’s of great importance for any language to express or reflect motions and actions. The best and the most natural way of expressing them is the verb, which forms an important of the basic vocabulary of any language. English and Chinese are no exceptions.

Both English and Chinese use verbs as the first and basic way to express actions. But the semantic domain of so called corresponding verbs between English and Chinese may differ and this sometimes makes the translation of some easy verbs not so easy. The following are some examples.

  1. The news made headlines. (这则消息成了报纸头条新闻)
  2. I think the focus on politics has crowded out the discussion of the economic and business side. (我看由于人们太关心政治,把经济和贸易的事挤到一边去了)

We all know English has comparatively stricter grammar rules restricting the use of verb in the sentence. Usually a clause can contain only one verb (or two more but have to be joined by conjunctions).

If one sentence is to express more than one action, one of the actions can only be expressed in a non-predicative form like infinitive or the participle. But there is no such restriction in the Chinese sentence.

Look at this sentence—“She watched from the kitchen window while they made their haphazard way down the driveway, lingering, chattering and stopping to point to things” (她通过厨房的窗口看着他们三三两两地顺着汽车道走过去,走走停停,一边说着话,还不时停下来指指什么。)several actions are expressed in the sentence.

The action of “watch” and “made their way” have different agents and are expressed in a compounded structure of two parallel clauses. The three other actions in the second clause are expressed through –ing participle phrases. But in the Chinese translation all the actions are naturally expressed through verbs.

The verb in English is all the more important as the marks of the most grammatical items are reflected on the verbs, such as the tense, the voice, and the mood.

As Chinese verbs have no morphological changes, such notions are expressed through lexical means, that is, by adding certain words. It is important to bring out the notions expressed through the tense in English-Chinese translation.

English verbs are divided into action verbs, state verbs and process (changing state) verbs, and action verbs can be further divided into instant verbs, duration verbs; or action verbs and result verbs. Mistakes will appear in translation if we don’t pay enough attention to such difference.

We find the “v. + n” structure is often used in English to express certain actions, for example “to have a look”, “to take a breath” etc. the verbs used in such patterns do not maintain their normal meanings and do not express any action. The nouns after them (their objects) are mostly derived from verbs denoting actions and often have their attributive modifiers.

The nouns have such patterns are usually translated into Chinese verbs, and their attributives naturally become adverbials. We should try to use this idiomatic way in translation from Chinese into English.

In all, verbs can express states and relations as well as actions, so there are dynamic verbs and static verbs. Careful language observers may have noticed that English static verbs are often translated into Chinese dynamic verbs, that is to say, comparatively speaking, Chinese sentences are more dynamic.