Find your way around Entrances and Exits in Chinese

When you think of the Chinese character 口(kǒu)you’ll no doubt think of “mouth”, though 口 is also used as a general word to represent openings. The image below shows three examples of how 口 can be used to represent an opening, these being types of entrance or exit:

Examples of mouth/entrance in Chinese

Image of a weigh bridge 地磅(dì bàng) office

入口

Pinyin: rù kǒu
English: Entrance

入 means to go into, or to enter, so naturally an opening that you go into is a “entrance”. 入口 could be used for a door, an entrance for vehicles into a car park, or anything really – it’s the catch all “entrance” word.

出口

Pinyin: chū kǒu
English: Exit; to export

The opposite of 入 is 出, which means to come, or go, out.

Worth noting here is that even though 出口 also means to “export”, 入口 does not mean to import. Import in Chinese is 進口(进口 jìn kǒu), 進(进) being another way to say “enter” or “go into”.

Another common word for entrance is 門口(门口 mén kǒu), though this is specifically a doorway – The Chinese character 門(门 mén) means “door”.

門口(门口)

Pinyin: mén kǒu
English: Entrance; doorway

Lastly, and also seen in the above image, is 窗口(chuāng kǒu), which is a window. While a standard window is called a 窗戶(窗户 chuāng hù) in Chinese, a 窗口 is more like the window at a post office or bank, or the drive-thru at a McDonalds, a type of Window that you might interact with people on the other side.

窗口

Pinyin: chuāng kǒu
English: Window

Also, interestingly, a 窗口 can also be a contact person for a business or organisation, for example – 他是那家公司的窗口(tā shì nà jiā gōngsī de chuāngkǒu)”He’s the contact person for that company”.

Notes

OCTW Chen added a great comment about 口 in the Google+ comments for this post:

In the ancient oracle character, the “口” was a mouth opened waiting something to eat. So the “口” become the counting unit when the government want to know how many people(有多少人口) in their country. They have to know that every man in their country means a mouth to be feed.

There is a saying talking about this: 民以食為天.

The idiom at the end 民以食為天(民以食为天 mín yǐ shí wéi tiān)means “the people view food as everything”, or food is the most important thing for the people. It uses a great sentence structure that is well worth learning:

以… 為…(以… 为…)

Pinyin: yǐ… wéi…
English: to use… as…; to view… as…

Using the idiom above as an example (這個成語例): 民 is short for 人民(rén mín)which is means “the people”, 食 is obviously 食物(shí wù), or “food”. 天 means sky, but can be anything from “god” and “heaven” to “nature” and “destiny”, so “everthing” or the most important thing is a good translation here. Now if we add in the 以…為… structure we get:

The people 以 food 為 everthing -> The people view/use/regard food as everthing.

I think another post looking more at the uses of 口 is in order, keep an eye out in the coming weeks for this!

  • Nick Minter

    入口 and 出口 were the first signs i learn whilst in china.

    I did make the mistake of thinking 入 was 人 though and was laughed at by my wife when i said “Ohh person entrance… that makes sense”

    And thanks for the site… it’s keeping me motivated to continue with the 3hrs of Chinese i’m doing per day :).

    • Thanks for the comment, Nick!
      Thinking back to when I first arrived in Taiwan, I think that before I started formally learning Chinese I had asked and learnt about 入口 and 出口, too, and I am pretty sure I had also mistaken 入 for 人. I think that 入口 and 出口 are some of the simplest and most easily understandable Chinese words, beautifully simple.

  • Love that little comment about 人口 and the 成語.

  • Eric Patz

    I just started Chinese 8 weeks ago. This is a awesome to facilitate memory and retention.