了 - 不贵了

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by student7, Jun 10, 2013.

  1. student7 Senior Member

    I'm really ashamed that i have to ask you a very basic question like this, but I, having studied Chinese for one year, cannot yet figure out the meaning of 了.

    我吃了午饭。I ate lunch.
    我吃午饭。I eat lunch.

    However, things do not seem that easy, as I have seen other examples in which 了 is used to express what is just happening. For example, "不贵了!" means "It is not expensive!" . This has nothing to do with what happened in the past, but 了 is used in the sentence. It is really difficult for me to understand the meaning of 了.

    Is there anyone who kindly explains this question?
  2. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    The use of 了 in Chinese is very complicated and I wouldn't blame you for not being able to master it after just one year of learning. The best approach I would advise is to learn many aspects of 了 systematically stage by stage, and for this you may need a grammar or textbook.

    For now, I've done a search for existing threads in the forum, so first have a look and see if they are of help, and go from there. I'm sure you'll find something relevant to your question:
  3. tarlou Senior Member

    Hi, student7, this is a difficult question indeed! I'm a native Chinese speaker and Chinese is the only language I've used in daily life. But I still have no idea about the exact meaning of 了.

    Roughly speaking, 了 can be used at two places:
    1. right after a verb (and before the object), to indicate an action has finished (like 我吃了午饭) or a sequence of actions (like 吃了饭就走, or 做了这个在做那个)
    2. at the end of a sentence, similar to 啦, but not exactly the same. 啦 can usually be removed but 了 may be essential. In some places people may pronounce 啦 as 了, however in other places people may say 了啦 at the end of a sentence.

    The usage of such words also depends on the context. Sometimes we use a lot of 了 to create funny expressions or to change the pace in a song. Sometimes when the verb phrase is used as whole in a longer sentence, we may prefer to omit most of 了, 的, etc things to make it formal and fluent.

    If you have a specific sentence, we can tell you if 了 is used correctly. But summarizing general rules is probably too difficult.
  4. liannaly Member

    Maybe I can simply answer you in this way just for 了. We begin with the property of 了. In modern Chinese, 了can be 1.auxiliary word, 2. interjection. 1. When it functions as auxiliary word, it follows behind verb or adjective to show the action has been finishied or to show a condition or status, e.g.: 我吃了午饭, 他走了 or 人老了, 鞋太小了. Sometimes, it's similar to the perfect time in English grammar. It's like a "label", hehe. 2. As a Chinese interjection, it expresses our mood or tone, e.g.: 过年了,周六了, these 2 examples shows expectation or shows the fact is coming. There are another 2 examples: 好了!(Well/Ok) 别闹了!(Stop messing around/Don't mess around). 了 is still interjection here. But it is a kind of way to show our tone.

    There are other usages of 了. As you are a beginner, the simpler the better for now.

    Hope it helps.
  5. student7 Senior Member

    Hi! Thank you for your responses.
    Your answers help me a lot to solve my problem.

    1: 鞋太小.
    2: 鞋太小了.

    What is the difference between the above 1 and 2?
    Thank you in advance.
  6. liannaly Member

    Tones are different.
    1. The tone to confirm the small size of the shoes is strong, definitely small.

    2. The tone is relaxed, softer than 1. 说明事实的语气更委婉、缓和。

    I dnt know whether I have used the right English words to discribe the difference. If I were wrong, please, everyone, correct me.
  7. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    Yes, 了 is used to soften the tone here, but one can't use it just anywhere. It most commonly follows 太 and 别:


  8. liannaly Member

    It depends. For example, 好了,漂亮了,去了,说了, they are existing. Please refer to my previous post. Its just sometimes the meaning is a little bit changed.

    好了:1. well/ok 2. Have become ok
    太好了:very good

    漂亮了:have become beautiful
    太漂亮了:1. Very beautiful
    2. A kind of expression to show you are happy
    e.g.: A. when you watch football game, and the group you like get a goal score, you are happy, at the moment, you can say 太漂亮了. It means good job.

    去了:1. have been there 2. have gone there
    别去:don't go, stop leaving(tone is strong)
    别去了:don't go, stop leaving(tone is soft)

    说了:have spoken
    别说:don't say (it) (tone is strong)
    别说了:1. don't talk more, stop talking
    2. don't say (it) (tone is soft)
  9. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    Liannaly, you seem to have misunderstood my post and your response to it may confuse those who are still learning.
    In my post (#7), I was saying that the adding of 了 in my examples only softens the tone and doesn't change the meaning. In your response to my post, you gave examples which change their meaning when 了 is added.
    This mix-up of differrent uses of 了 would confuse learners. As I said earlier, there are many uses of 了.
  10. liannaly Member

    In your example,



    Without了, they will be
    Above, we don't express in this way as short phrases to discribe our feeling although nothing wrong with grammar. If we did, we would always feel lacking of something. Though I was thinking since we don't speak in this way, there is no "adding" or not.

    These exist as short phrases to discribe our feeling or our intention.

    That's why I explain more, hehe.
    Or I didn't/don't think in foreigner way, so we talk about this in different aspects in fact. But interjection as 了 does confuse people a lot.
  11. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Rule of thumb:
    When the sentence is too short or the verb is too simple, Chinese prefer adding a 了 to finish the sentence.
    Yes, 了 sometimes indicates a move is finished, but it also indicates the sentence is finished.
    A simple sentence without 了 would make people feel it's incomplete, something more is happening.
  12. WillyTest New Member

    Chinese - Taiwan
    In fact, 了 is one of the most frequently used Chinese words. So frequently that sometimes I find it not easy to translate it into other languages.

    我吃飽了,但這實在太難吃了 (I'm full, but the food is awful)
    我嚇了一跳,不過現在恢復了 (I was shocked, but I recovered)
    我考慮了一陣子之後決定不去了 (I thought about it for a while and decided not to go)

    Maybe it is best by reading more to see how 了 is used. It is quite difficult (even for a native Chinese) to make a list when we use 了.
    For beginners and for mere communicating purpose, I think it is okay to omit 了 if you are not sure whether to use it or not, for the meaning of a sentence will no change too much either with or without it.
    But if you want to speak good Chinese, you will have to read more and try to master the usage of 了.

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