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dǎng
v. keep off, ward off; block, impede, get in the way (of...)
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拦 and 挡 can both be verbs and their meanings are very similar. What's their difference then?

Their main difference is that 拦 is a subjective action that is done deliberately for the purpose of blocking or barring someone, and 挡 is more of an objective state or an action done without being aware of the consequence.


Let's take a look at four examples (two for each word):

拦 lán [v] to hinder, to bar, to block; be directed right at
Examples:
E.g. 1 拦着 [v] prevent, stop, block (form entering or going to some place) -- this is deliberately blocking the way and stopping someone from entering or passing; in comparison, if we say 挡着, then the action taker is impeding or blocking the way, but s/he does not know the consequence of his action
E.g. 2 一条小河拦住了我们的去路。 [phr] A small river blocked the way we are going. -- now you may ask, 小河 is inanimate, how can 小河 be paired with 拦, does it mean that 小河 can take a conscious action? Well, yes, because in this case personification is used.

挡 dǎng [v] keep off, ward off; block, impede, get in the way (of...)
Examples:
E.g. 3 你干吗挡在路中间? [phr] Why did you block the middle of the road? -- this is not done deliberately, this person may happen to be in the way but not aware of it.
E.g. 4 她用手挡住自己的面容。 [phr] She used her hands to obscure her face. -- this is a objective state. We cannot use 拦 because we are not blocking or barring someone.
lisaC
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