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Thread: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

  1. #1
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    了 - 我怕亏待了你

    Hello/大家好!

    I have a question related to a sentence I heard on a TV show today (大男当婚).

    (This is a scene in which the 男主角徐峥 is explaining to a girl his feelings about their relationship and why he had to borrow a house/car in order to impress her)
    其实和你在一起吧,我心里特别发虚。因为我觉得你条件特别好。身边肯定有很多比我优秀的人。我觉得自己特别配不上你。我怕亏待了你.

    My question is: what is the function/meaning of 了 in this last sentence? I usually understand it to mean the past or for emphasis/something happening now (我来了, etc).
    But in this sentence, I think it is for the future, right?
    I'm afraid of "treating you unfairly"/that this will be unfair for you?
    or is it the past (since he was dishonest with her earlier on): "I'm afraid that I've not treated you right (in the past)"?

    Thanks/谢谢!

  2. #2
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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    It's for the future, and the sentence is perfectly correct.

    But I don't know the function either. One possible explanation is: 我怕亏待了你就不好了 but 就不好了 is typically omitted. There are similar structures like 吃了饭再走吧, 我交了电费就回家, where "verb with 了 + another verb" means future. Maybe other people have better ideas.

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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    我怕亏待了你 = 我怕(假如我和你在一起的话, 我会)亏待了你

    A subjunctive mood contrary to the present: (I keep our relationship in limbo because) if we were a couple, I would have (= ) done you injustice.
    Last edited by Skatinginbc; 15th February 2013 at 8:51 PM.

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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    Hi! I think it might be better to say 了 is used for the perfective aspect, regardless of the time-line (thus more like Russian than English), and can be used either for past or future events.

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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    Thanks, everyone, for your help! I suppose it is almost like a "conditional" in this sentence, isn't it?

    I hope this is not too complicated a question, but is there a way to differentiate in Chinese:
    "I'm afraid that I've not treated you right."
    "I'm afraid that I would not treat you right"
    "I'm afraid that I would not have treated you right"
    "I'm afraid that I'm not treating you right"
    "I'm afraid that I will not treat you right"

    (I suppose this is more of a grammar question than one that necessarily has to do with this specific sentence, as I don't think I'll be needing to use this sentence -- at least I hope not!)
    I think some of the above might have some overlap in Chinese, right?

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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    吃了饭再走吧 Please don't leave until you have (= 了) had the dinner.
    我交了电费就回家 I will come home once I have (= 了) paid the electric bill (Note: Brits often say electricity bill).

    我怕会亏待了你 I'm afraid that I would (= 会) not have (= 了) treated you right.
    我怕亏待了你 I'm afraid that I have (= 了) not treated you right.
    我怕会亏待你 I'm afraid that I would (= 会) not treat you right", "I'm afraid that I will (= 会) not treat you right".
    我怕亏待你 I'm afraid that I'm not treating you right.

  7. #7
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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    Ah, it's a lot simpler/more intuitive than I thought. I suppose the only real overlap here is with "will" and "would".
    Thanks so much, Skatinginbc !

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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    I'm not against that 了 means perfective aspect. But the usage of 了 here is not that simple. I have a few examples to confuse you more

    别跟他走,我怕他亏待了你。 ----We have 了 here. Removing 了 is acceptable.
    别跟他走,我怕他欺负你。 ----We don't have 了 here. Adding 了 is not acceptable.
    别跟他走,我怕他杀了你。 ----We have 了 here. Removing 了 is acceptable, but it's on the boundary of unacceptable for me.

    A: 你到底说不说?
    B:杀了我吧!我绝对不会告诉你的。 (Kill me please, I won't tell you.)
    I don't think 了 has anything to do with perfective aspect here.

    Honestly I don't know the function of 了. I think it depends on the verb.

    I have no sense of "have done" when read your sentence. In fact, all Chinese speakers learn about "perfective aspects" only in foreign languages. That concept may not apply to Chinese in exactly the same way as English.

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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    他要杀你 He wants to kill you.
    他被杀了 He was killed (He is dead. The action of killing was "compete").
    我怕他杀了你 I'm afraid he will (successfully) kill you (I'm afraid you'll be dead).
    我怕他杀你 I'm afraid he will kill (= make the attempt of killing) you.
    杀了我吧!Kill me dead! (a "complete" or "perfective" killing).

    别跟他走,我怕他亏待了你。 ----implying that 他 and 你 have spent some time together.
    别跟他走,我怕他亏待你。---implying that 你 don't know him well enough.
    Quote Originally Posted by tarlou View Post
    别跟他走,我怕他欺负你。 ----We don't have 了 here. Adding 了 is not acceptable.
    别跟他走,我怕他欺负你 Don't go with him. I'm afraid he will "bully" you.
    If he has 欺负了你 ("bullied" or violated you), it is too late for 我 to worry. "你", whoever that is, already lost her virginity or dignity. And therefore 别跟他走,我怕他欺负了你 sounds a bit odd.
    Last edited by Skatinginbc; 16th February 2013 at 12:59 AM.

  10. #10
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    Re: 了 - 我怕亏待了你

    I think one of the problems is that the function of 了 can't be shown in English readily. For 我怕会亏待了你 in OP's context, one would say "I'm afraid I would do you injustice", not "I'm afraid I would have done you injustice", which can only be used for a past event (say, you're talking with your ex whom you almost married 20 years ago: "I'm afraid I would have done you injustice [if I had married you]" [假如那时候我们真的结了婚的话]我怕会亏待了你)

    It seems that we often (but not always) use 了 when we want to emphasize the completion of an action, whether in the past or in the future. When it's about a future event, the usage seems to be difficult to be shown in English, although it may be reflected in other languages in some cases. For example, you're going to the bank to deposit money for your mom tomorrow, and she warns you:

    -我拜托你不要把錢弄丟了
    -I implore you not to lose the money (we can't say "have lost" here)
    -Я тебя прошу не потерять эти деньги (perfective verb used here)

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