了 - 我吃了饭 / 我吃饭了 / 我吃了饭了

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Skatinginbc, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    我吃了饭 ==> 了 is an auxiliary (助词) indicating a perfective aspect. 我吃了饭就去找你 :tick:
    我吃饭了 ==> 了 is a modal particle (语气词) expressing an affirmative mood (肯定语气). 我吃饭了就去找你 :cross: ==> Evidence that it does not indicate a tense.
    Yeah, why not *他死了了? Apparently there is an unspoken rule regarding the use of double 了s. I think I have been conditioned to avoid such constructions because 我吃过饭了 sounds natural but 我吃了饭了 is something unfamiliar to me.
    This is my question:
    If 我回了你的短信了= 我已经回了您的短信, the "affirmative" 了 seems to be optional. Then why is the second 了a must in 我回了你的短信了? I'm trying to figure out why the second 了 would make the expression more colloquial or idiomatic.
    Can I say "是的, 我回了你的短信"?
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
    : tense/aspect
  2. AquisM Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    Well, perhaps it's for the very reason we add 了 in the first place. The 了 is used to show an affirmation, a truth. When you add 是的, this sense of truth is already portrayed, thus eliminating the need for the 了 at the end. A theory, of course, but seems logical. :)
    (Although, possibly due to the fact that I speak Cantonese, I would put a 了 at the end of your example.)
  3. tarlou Senior Member

    "是的, 我回了你的短信(了)" can be used an answer to 你回(了)我的短信了吗? But note that this is not the same question asked in the original thread.

    If the first person says 我昨天给你发了条短信, the natural answer should be 我回了短信 or 我已经回了短信(了).

    A: 我昨天给你发了条短信。
    B: 噢,我回了你的短信。 ---------This does not sound great. Use either 我回了 or 我回了你的短信了.

    I have no reasons for this. Maybe you can think the second 了 is actually
    喇 in Ghabi's post and the first 了 means perfect aspect (=咗 in Ghabi's post). (Thanks to Ghabi I finally understand 了啦 used by northern people to mimic Cantonese is actually 咗喇 like in 他死了了.)

    Another possible explanation is the written forms of particles are different in Taiwan and mainland. For example, 著 is used in Taiwan but only 着 is correct in mainland. You can think 啦 can be written (and pronounced) as 了, 喽, 嘞 etc in mainland.
  4. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    "你回了我的短信吗" is what I normally say. I notice that you wrote 你回(了)我的短信了吗--the perfectiveis optional whereas the affirmative is obligatory. I'm trying to understand the logic: Since the question is about whether a task has been completed or not (perfective aspect), shouldn't the perfective 了 be the obligatory one? Why would the "affirmative" 了 be necessary in a QUESTION? Perhaps, it is not "affirmative" after all. If not, what is it?
  5. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    我吃了饭: when this is said, something else is expected to follow (i.e. the speaker has not finished speaking). Often used to tell about an event, some happening: I got up, went for a 10-mile run, had a huge breakfast and then left for work...

    我吃饭了: this, as opposed to the above, can be the end of what the speaker has got to say (i.e. he can stop here or continue with some other thing). Often used to update the hearer of new information: I've eaten/ she's got married/ I've been to Beijing, etc.

    我吃了饭了: an emphatic variation of, and can often be replaced by, 我吃饭了.
  6. tarlou Senior Member

    Hmm, this is a good observation. I think I should write the two sentences separately instead of using parentheses, because their structures are different:
    1. 你回了我的短信了吗?
    2. 你回我的短信了吗?
    了 in the second sentence means perfect aspect, like in statements 我吃饭了, 我回信了. The perfective 了 is not omitted. The first sentence (and statement 我吃了饭了) probably should be considered as a different structure.

    I didn't parenthesize the second 了 because 你回了我的短信吗 does not sound great for me. It's OK in writings but when I speak I prefer to have 了 just next to 吗. 你回了我的短信没 is much more natural.


    Regarding the ...了...了 structure, after a second thought I feel the second 了 is not just a particle carrying mood and the first 了 is not exact perfect aspect. I'm not good at grammar but after reading it several times the second 了 sounds more like perfect aspect.

    PS: The 了 between verb and object is a mystery for me since the post 我怕亏待了你 http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2580611
    I though it was something like preposition but Ghabi gave another reasonable explanation. In 红楼梦 there are lots of examples: 你携这蠢物 ,意欲何往; 可巧这日拄拐杖挣挫到街前散散心时
    I'm not saying the first 了 in 我吃了饭了 is the same as these examples. I just want to argue 了 between verb and object does not have to be perfect aspect. 我吃了饭了 should be the same as 我吃过饭了.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  7. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    A: 老王最近好像对你特别友善.
    B: 是呀, 为了向我借钱,他请我吃了饭 (了 ==> perfective aspect of 吃. They already had the meal together.)
    B: 是呀, 为了向我借钱,他请我吃饭了 (了 ==> signaling a development contrary to what has been expected. They may or may not have had the meal together.)

    吃饭了 doesn't always imply "completion of eating". Sometimes it actually means "eating in progress" (http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2480249&langid=22.)
    吃了饭 on the other hand seems to entail "completion".
  8. tarlou Senior Member

    I searched a little bit and found that I've messed up the two concepts "perfective aspect" and "perfect aspect". (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfective_aspect)

    Now it's clear for me that 了 in 吃了饭 is exactly perfective aspect. It means the action is isolated and independent. English does not have a simple perfective aspect.

    For the second 了 in 吃了饭了, I feel it is a particle (can be replaced by 啦) that expresses an emotion, something like "I did..." or "I did have...". This 了 emphasizes the tense (in the past) and connections to the current events. So it is closer to "have done" than the first 了 actually.
  9. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    A: 对不起, 我回了她的信.
    B: 为什么? 你不是答应不再和那婆娘纠缠吗?

    A: 对不起, 我吃了你的饭.
    B: 沒关系, 我去了这么久, 谁也没准我会不会回来.

    A: 乘我不在, 他竟偷了我的羊.
    B: 你確定? 那咱们邀几个兄弟去把他打一顿.

    Can I say "我回她的信了", "我吃你的饭了", and "他竟偷我的羊了" in the above examples? What would be the differences in meaning?

    A: 吃饭了.
    B: 噢, 我马上就来.
    Can I say "吃了饭了" in the above example?

    A: 对不起, 我不知你们已经睡觉了.
    B: 沒关系, 我们還沒睡著.
    Can I say "我不知你们已经睡了觉了" in the above example?
  10. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
  11. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Can we count it as evidence that the first 了 in "吃了饭了" actually has its grammatical function (i.e., perfective aspect) and therefore 我吃了饭了 is not merely an emphatic variation of 我吃饭了?
  12. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    "吃饭了" in most circumstances refers to the eating that has already happened (even without the middle 了) and in these circumstances, "吃了饭了" is an emphatic version of that. Your "吃饭了" is different by the context you specified, it's not one of the norm and you can't just apply the same rule regardless.
  13. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    了 as an auxiliary (助词):
    1. Tense auxiliary (perfective aspect): 用在动词或形容词后,表示动作或变化已经完成 (indicating completion of an action or a change): e.g., 吃了再走; 他请我吃了饭.
    2. Mood auxiliary: 用在句子的末尾或句子停顿的地方,表示变化或出现新的情况 (indicating the onset or progression of a change or newly observed circumstances): e.g., 天亮了, 下雨了, 为了向我借钱,他请我吃饭了 (He has never done that before or he hasn't done that for a while. It is out of his character), 我不知你们已经睡觉了 (in the process of sleeping).

    "Double 了s" that I am used to pertains to the following situation: 这顿饭他吃了一个小时了 "He has been eating for an hour" (And he is still eating). The first 了 indicates the perfective aspect, and the second 了 the newly observed circumstance that is still in progress.

    了 as a modal particle (语气词):
    1. Affirmative mood, which is not the obligatory part of the syntax and therefore can be omitted:你吃過狗肉吗? 吃過(了).

    If we regard the second in 你回了我的短信(了) as optional, we see it as an affirmative modal particle.
    If we regard the first in 你回(了)我的短信了 as optional and the second as obligatory, the second is treated as a structural auxiliary.

    It appears to me that
    了 in some Mandarin dialects can carry duel functions at once, namely, both tense auxiliary and mood auxiliary. Thus 了 in 你回我的短信 indicates both "completion of a task" and "a newly observed circumstance". "吃了饭了" is seen as an emphatic version of "吃饭了" because the second 了 already serves both functions and the first becomes redundant (Note: Redundancy can be a rhetoric device for emphasis).

    Does my attempt to explain this colloquial use of "了" make sense?
  14. tarlou Senior Member

    I have different opinions on these:

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  15. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    That's very interesting. To me, "我不知你们已经睡了觉了" would mean ""我不知你们已经睡過觉了" (and so they are awake).
    :D Thank you, Tarlou. I know what you meant. I thought adding a final 了 would take away the old-time feel. It's interesting that you thought the opposite.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2013
  16. tarlou Senior Member

    Probably I was affect by dialects in my hometown (河北省方言). Normally it should mean 睡过觉了.
    It seems a combination of 睡了 and 睡觉了... I don't know.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  17. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    睡了觉了 = 睡了 + 睡觉了. It makes sense. In that case, 睡了觉了 means "has been sleeping"--the first 了 perfective, the second 了 new information/observation about a situation/development in progress.
    It reminds me of the double-了 construction that I am familiar with: 了 + 量词 + 了. For instance,
    我等了二十分钟了 "I have been waiting for 20 minutes" (and probably will continue waiting).
    回了封信了 "I have answered one letter" (and there are more to be done. The action of 信 is still in progress.)
    喝了了 "You have consumed one bottle of wine" (Why are you still drinking? Why don't you quit? The action of 喝酒 is still in progress.)
    我做了一个梦:tick: "I had a dream". 我做了一个梦了 :confused: (The speaker is apparently awake, no longer in sleep. The action of "dreaming" () is discontinued and therefore the second doesn't make too much sense here).

    睡了觉了≠ 睡过觉了, but 吃了饭了 = 吃过饭了. It's rather confusing, isn't it? ;)
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2013
  18. tarlou Senior Member

    I think there are some differences between 睡 and 吃. When you say 他睡了, he is typically still sleeping. But when you say 他吃了, he typically has finished eating. I feel 睡 in 楼上都睡了觉了 actually means the action "get into sleep" rather than the whole sleep.

    We also have other similar phrases: 快出去看看吧,隔壁着了火了!
    Here 着 means only the action "fire is ignited". When you say 房子着火了, the house is typically still on fire. So I think 睡 and 着 are verbs that can mean only the starting point of the action.

    睡了觉了 can also be 睡过觉了 depending on the context. 我中午明明睡了觉了,怎么现在还这么困. Here 睡觉 means the whole procedure of "sleep".

    I think the 了+量词+了 structure you proposed makes a lot of sense. I feel 我吃了饭了 is just quite similar (if not exactly the same).
    你作业到底交了没? 我真的交了作业了。 (reporting I've finished the procedure, and I don't need to hand in homework any more.)
    你怎么不回短信?故意不理我? 我明明已经回了你的短信了。 (argue that I've already done the task.)
    The last 了 is like reporting progress, telling you what I've already finished, and either I'm going to do more or I don't need to do more.
  19. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Thank you for the good examples. This kind of structure actually exist in my dialect as well. It is marked (with emphasis, not neutral). The second 了, a mood auxiliary, is to signal information contrary to the perceived belief or expectation of the listener.
    我真的交了作业了--Without the second 了, the sentence would sound not only "incomplete" (as xiaolijie said in her post) but also "unnatural" (therefore it is "a must" as you pointed out earlier) whether in speech or in writing.

    Neutral Sentences:
    A: 你吃饭没?
    B: 吃了.
    Marked Sentences:
    A: 你到底吃了饭没?
    B: 吃了饭了 (probably with an annoyed tone).

    我明明已经回了你的短信, 为什么你还不相信我? Note that the second 了 is absent (not preferred) in a subordinate clause. The reason, I think, is that the focus is on the main clause (为什么你还不相信我). The mood auxiliary 了 has an emphatic function. Having it would take away the focus of the main clause. Its absence actually serves as a "cohesive device" (a linguistic term). It removes the clause's independent status (i.e., making it dependent).
    对不起, 我吃了你的饭 "Sorry that I ate your meal"; 对不起, 我回了她的信 "Sorry that I returned her letter". The main clause is 对不起 and thus the final-了 is not preferred.
    趁我不在, 他竟偷了我的羊. 趁我不在 is the subordinate clause and 他竟偷了我的羊 is the main clause. 他偷了我的羊 would be neutral. With the "annoying" 竟 :D , the sentence becomes marked and therefore there is a need for a final-了. And yet with it, the sentence would not sound so natural (And therefore it sounds like an utterance from "people living in the early 20th century" :D).
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013

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