了 - 在那儿住了两年了

L3P

Senior Member
Russian,Ukrainian
Hi,guys!

We have two dialogs:

#1

· 很长时间没见了,你去哪儿了?

· 我去北京了,在那儿住了两年(I went to Beijing and lived there for 2 years)

· 去那儿做什么?

· 去看一个朋友,他身体不太好


#2

· 很长时间没见了,你好吗?

· 我很好。我现在在北京工作。在那儿住了两年(I`ve been living there for 2 years)。明年就准备回国

The question is: in #1 with the help of 了 the person emphasizes that two months was quite long,whereas in #2 the person uses 了 to show that he`s still there.


Am I right?
 
  • stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    In #1, I don't think 了 expresses the idea that the two-year period is quite long, unless you stress the words 两年 and 了。
    我在那儿住了两年了
    In fact, without 了,you can still emphasize the two-year period is quite long, by stressing the word 两年。
    我在那儿住了两年。

    In #2, the word that shows he is still there is 现在 in the preceding sentence, not the last word 了。The last expresses the completion, which sounds like the English perfect tense: I have lived there for two years.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    我在那儿住了两年 ==> 了 modifies 住
    (我在那儿住)两年了 ==> 了 modifies 两年
    我在那儿住了两年了 ==> The first 了 modifies 住; the second 了 modifies 两年.

    A: 好久没见了,你去哪儿了?
    B: 我去了北京, 在那儿住了两年, 昨天才剛回來. ==> "have lived there" + "two years."

    A: 好久没见了,你去哪儿了?
    B: 我去了北京, 在那儿住了两年了, 昨天才剛回來. ==> "have lived there" + "has been two years." ==> The extra 了 (the second one) brings the length of time into focus.

    A: 好久不见, 你好吗?
    B: 我很好, 现在在北京工作, 在那儿两年了, 想明年搬回來. ==> "living there" + "has been two years."

    A: 好久不见, 你好吗?
    B: 我很好, 现在在北京工作, 在那儿住了两年, 想明年搬回來. ==> "have lived there" + "has been two years". ==> The extra 了 (the first one) brings the fact of 住 into focus. To make a stronger emphasis, you may add 都, 已經, or both, for instance, 在那儿(都)(已經)住了两年了.
     
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    L3P

    Senior Member
    Russian,Ukrainian
    Skatinginbc,you can`t imagine how much I appreciate you taking time to break it down for me.
    Thanks a bunch for your help.You know,overall,I admit that the Chinese grammar isn`t one of the easiest (I have a few ones to compare with),however it`s totally apprehensible (for the most part),but the '了' bit is the most confusing for me :)

    Thanks again and good luck!
     

    fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    Hmm, 了 is indeed a big trouble.

    My feeling is a bit different from the previous answers. The following is my personal understanding.
    To me, the final 了 modifies the whole action and marks perfect aspect, and the first 了 marks the length of the time that the action has been carried out (instead of the usual simple usage that marks action is past/completed/etc). And I would group the words as 我在那儿(住了两年)了, where "住了两年" corresponds to "was living for 2 years/lived for 2 years", and the final "了" carries the sense of "have done".
    我住了两年:tick: 我(住了两年)了:tick: (the first 了 marks the action was carried out for two years)
    我搬了三次家:tick: 我(搬了三次家)了:tick: (the first 了 marks the action was repeated for three times)
    他去了纽约:tick: 他(去了纽约)了:tick: (the first 了 marks "perfective aspect", i.e. the action is a whole and in contrast to ongoing/habitual/repeated/etc, not to be confused with the above "perfect aspect" which is the function of the final 了)

    I thought the final 了 might be related to interjections. A final 啦/喽 can have a similar function as 了, the difference is that 啦/喽 also carries some emotion. In classic Chinese, a final 矣 feels like a word with similar function. "Blah blah blah 啦!" is like saying "Blah blah blah DONE!". That is, the interjection emphasizes the action has been done and focuses on the result, effect or how it is related to what we are talking about.

    However, if we rephrase the sentence a little bit,
    我(居)住在那儿:tick: 我(居)住在那儿/两年了:tick:
    我在那儿居住:tick: 我在那儿居住/两年了:tick:
    (BTW, I don't know why 我在那儿住两年了:warn: sounds awkward to me. So I didn't include it here.)
    then the sentences would feel quite different, and I would agree to group (两年了) together, and as you see the part before 两年了 makes perfect sense (in the previous sentences with two 了s, the part before the final 了 makes perfect sense.)

    Anyway, since the OP's question is about the second 了, the answer can be simple. In #1 and #2, the sentence can both be translated as "I've been living there for 2 years/I have lived there for 2 years". The final 了 indicates perfect aspect, i.e. it is "focusing attention on the resulting state rather than on the occurrence itself" (words from Wikipedia). What is the result of 住了两年? It may be "two years is too long", it may also be "I'm still staying there", depending on the context.
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Yes, I admit that my explanation was not very precise.
    他抽大麻, 她看我一眼, 他去北京, 他在那儿住两年 ==> modifies the entire VP (Yes, technically the entire VP but it is the main verb that receives the emphasis. For instance, 他爬了上去 ==> 爬 is the focus).
    他抽大麻, 她看我一眼, 他去北京, 他在那儿住两年==> modifies the entire sentence (Yes, technically the entire sentence but it is the last element that receives the emphasis. For instance, 他爬上去了 ==> 上去 is the focus).
    By "focus", I mean the element that contributes new/contrastive information or the main idea. For instance, 她以前是視若無睹, 今天終於看我一眼了 ==> 看, a synonym of 睹, is not new. The contrastive element is 一眼 (vs. 無).
     
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    Messquito

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Taiwan 中文 Taiwanese Hokkien 臺語
    I have a different explanation:
    1.我在N兩年:modifies 住兩年, it emphasizes the past tense and the time
    2.我在N兩年了,... modifies the whole sentence, it functions like a perfect tense.
    那時,我在N已經住
    兩年 modifies 住了兩年, it emphasizes how much time has passed up until "now".
    3.我在N住兩年
    modifies 兩年 (I see 我在那裡住 as the TOPIC, and 兩年了 as the COMMENT, that's why I think 了 modifies 兩年), it emphasizes how much time has passed up until "now".
    (By "now" I mean "the time in your point of view", so when you add 那時 or ...的時候, you set your point of view in the past, then it should mean "up until 'then'". When nothing indicating the past time is added, it should mean exactly "up until 'now'")


    I've read in an article (see link below) that 了(except V過...了 and perhaps more exceptions), at the end of a sentence, provides a core meaning of "initiation", which is, it marks the beginning of a
    new matter after this whole sentence, as in English: "Having finished the dinner, she + (new matter)". It kind of suggests that "the end of one thing is the beginning of another."
    As a result, the 了 at the end of a sentence may mark:
    1. The beginning of another thing, like

    2. The time that has/had passed up until "now", like

    Possible translations can be:
    我在N兩年。I lived
    in N for two years.
    我在N兩年,... After I lived in N for two years, .../ After I had lived in N for two years,.../ Having lived in N for two years, S+Ved
    那時,我在N已經住兩年:I had lived in N for two years then.
    我在N住兩年
    。It has been two years that I live in N.

    我三歲的時候全家搬到美國,在那邊
    五年。 When I was 3, me and my family moved to the USA, and lived there for 5 years.
    我開始上小學的時候,我在美國已經住(
    )三年。When I started primary school, I had been in the USA for 3 years.
    我在美國五年(),才搬去日本。(After) having lived in the USA for 5 years, we moved to Japan.
    我在日本住已經十年
    。It's been 10 years that I live in Japan.
    我在日本已經住(
    )十年。I have lived in Japan for 10 years. (adding , you kind of emphasize it is "from the past" up until now.)

    Let's get back to your examples:


    #1
    I think you should drop the final 了, making it 我去北京了,在那儿住了两年
    Let's just say there is a 了, and analyze it:
    First of all, it was the end of his sentence. Nothing follows, so the 了 surely does not mark the initiation of another matter.
    Second of all, they are talking in a present point of view, with this 了 he should mean "I have lived in Beijing for two years up until now," but actually he is no longer in Beijing, so this 了 does not belong here.

    As to how 了 emphasizes the time:

    我在那裡才站兩個小時,不算什麼的。 I stood there only for 2 hours. It was nothing.
    我在那裡站兩個小時,就為了幫他排隊買他最愛吃的東西,他卻連謝謝都不說。 It stood there for 2 hours, waiting in line, just to buy his favorite food, and I didn't even get a thanks.
    我在攤位前站三個小時,卻連ㄧ個客人都沒有。I stood there for 3 hours, and no customer showed.
    The 了 emphasizes how long it was.

    我已經在那兩個小時--三點過他卻還沒來。I had waited there for 2 hours--it was past 3 but he still hadn't arrived.
    The /了 shows that it had been late enough that it was high time that something should have happened. And kind of shows that "it lasted late", so it also emphasizes how long it lasts.

    in #1 with the help of 了 the person emphasizes that two months was quite long,whereas in #2 the person uses 了 to show that he`s still there.
    No and Yes.
    In #1 the person emphasizes that two months was quite long with the first 了.
    In #2 the person uses 了 to mark the time up until now, so he is still there.


    Link:
    https://www.google.com.tw/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url=http://www.eastling.org/paper/%5Cjinlixin%5Cjinlixin_zhuo_liao_guo.doc&ei=OmZiVcGWDdTe8AWEmYGgAg&usg=AFQjCNE29H_HbgaQJTRnLeyAXTvviXDMbg&sig2=c3eoFPXO0ReRHjoq0iAQag
     
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    L3P

    Senior Member
    Russian,Ukrainian
    Thank all,guys.Again,it`s hard to overestimate the use of this site and the people trying to help...
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I think the above explantions are good. 了 is a simple word, but it is a very important and meaningful word in Chinese.
    What DOES it express then?
    I think it means I have lived there two years.

    -很长时间没见了,你去哪儿了?

    -我去北京了,在那儿住了两年
    You have lived there for two years until now. You are still living in Beijing. Now you are back to see your family, or take a rest, or handle personal business, etc.

    -很长时间没见了,你去哪儿了?

    -我去北京了,在那儿住了两年。
    Hard to tell whether you lived in there two years in the past or you have lived two years until now. Maybe you had lived there for two years, and came back two months ago.
     

    brofeelgood

    Senior Member
    English, 中文
    A thought just popped into my head.

    verb+了+duration+了 = 已经+verb+了+duration

    ... and it's still in progress...

    我在北京住了两年了 = 我在北京已经住了两年 (还没走)
    孩子哭了整个早上了 = 孩子已经哭了整个早上 (还没停)
    我等了两个小时了 = 我已经等了两个小时 (还在等)
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    A: 多年不見, 沒想到你還是單身一人.
    B: 什麼單身一人? 你去美國多年, 不知我已經結婚又離婚, 兩個孩子(生孩子的動作早已停止). 真後悔傻傻地做結紮, 以後不能再生了 (該動作不再持續).

    A: 你怎麼悶聲不響的, 不先打個商量, 就突然搬回來了呢?
    B: 爸, 我在北京已經两年, 仍然無法混出個名堂來, 不回來, 難道要我在那儿喝西北風? (在北京住的動作已經中止, 以後也很可能不再持續).
    verb+了+duration+了 = 已经+verb+了+duration
    If so, then what is the function of the final 了 in 已经+verb+了+durationn+?
     

    brofeelgood

    Senior Member
    English, 中文
    A: 多年不見, 沒想到你還是單身一人.
    B: 什麼單身一人? 你去美國多年, 不知我已經結婚又離婚, 生了兩個孩子了(生孩子的動作早已停止). 真後悔傻傻地做了結紮, 以後不能再生了 (該動作不再持續).
    :thumbsup: Spot on. 了 is perfect for the concluded action - 生了两个孩子.

    A: 你怎麼悶聲不響的, 不先打個商量, 就突然搬回來了呢?
    B: 爸, 我在北京已經两年, 仍然無法混出個名堂來, 不回來, 難道要我在那儿喝西北風? (在北京住的動作已經中止, 以後也很可能不再持續).

    If so, then what is the function of the final 了 in 已经+verb+了+durationn+?
    爸,我在北京已經住了两年,(但)仍然無法混出個名堂來. <- highlighted sentence
    爸,我在北京已經住了两年,(但)仍然無法混出個名堂來.
    爸,我在北京住了两年,(但)仍然無法混出個名堂來.

    They sound the same to me :confused:. The second in the highlighted sentence above seems like a mere particle, 可有可无. Even without it, the gist of the statement is preserved.
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    爸,我在北京已經住了两年,(但)仍然無法混出個名堂來. <- highlighted sentence

    爸,我在北京住了两年,(但)仍然無法混出個名堂來.
    Without extra contexts, they both mean the same to me, that is, the son is still living there.
    I think it is the extra contexts, for instance, 所以我决定回来了, that makes it sound like the son has left there permanently.

    A: 多年不見, 沒想到你還是單身一人.
    B: 什麼單身一人? 你去美國多年, 不知我已經結婚又離婚, 兩個孩子(生孩子的動作早已停止). 真後悔傻傻地做結紮, 以後不能再生了 (該動作不再持續).
    I feel what makes 我住了两年了and 我生了两个孩子了 differ is not 了,but 住 and 生.
     
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