了 - 我學了中文 / 我學中文了 / 我學了中文了

maghanish2

Senior Member
United States - English
大家好!

I have a question regarding the use of 了 in the following setnences. I believe I have used it right, but would like confirmation.

我學了中文 - I studied Chinese.
我學中文了 - Now I study Chinese (but I didn't before - its a change).
我學了中文了 - I studied Chinese and am still studying it (it didn't END in the past).

I think my translations are accurate, but would you please help me if they aren't?

謝謝!
 
  • BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    大家好!

    I have a question regarding the use of 了 in the following setnences. I believe I have used it right, but would like confirmation.

    (1) 我學了中文 - I studied Chinese.
    (2) 我學中文了 - Now I study Chinese (but I didn't before - its a change).
    (3) 我學了中文了 - I studied Chinese and am still studying it (it didn't END in the past). Unless, of course, if there is a relevant context (again).

    I think my translations are accurate, but would you please help me if they aren't?

    謝謝!
    (1) Without context, this sounds boastful. Chinese language is profound and complex, no native speakers has the guts to proclaim that he/she has completed learning the language.

    (2) 我學中文了 is commonly understood as 我开始学中文了。It is interpreted as you have already begun to learn Chinese.

    (3) Grammar aside, this is "heavy" and therefore, not idiomatic in Chinese.

    To say "studied (sic) Chinese and am still studying it" - 我正在学中文。
    Also, in Chinese, "to revise" is "温书" (lit: to keep the books warm). You may completely revise a book or a subject, but it's almost impossible to learn a language completely.
     
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    我说汉语

    Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    大家好!

    I have a question regarding the use of 了 in the following setnences. I believe I have used it right, but would like confirmation.

    我學了中文 - I studied Chinese.
    我學中文了 - Now I study Chinese (but I didn't before - its a change).
    我學了中文了 - I studied Chinese and am still studying it (it didn't END in the past).

    I think my translations are accurate, but would you please help me if they aren't?

    謝謝!
    Well, 了 is really complicated and brings a lot of trouble to second language learners.
    First of all, I'd like to say that 了 is not a tence marker like v-ed in English. It's more of an aspect marker.

    To make it simpler, there are two kinds of 了, implying different states of an action.
    V了,the 了 right after the verb, is usually interpreted as a marker of perfectivity while S了, the le after a sentence is usally understood as change of state.

    Thus,
    我学了中文。expresses the perfectivity of an action. [I've leared chinese]
    Then you can say: 我学了中文以后,认识了很多中国朋友。我学了一点儿中文,去中国旅游已经没有问题了。
    我学中文了。indicate a change of state. So you can also say 我开始学中文了。Because when you start something, there is a change of state.(Therefore you can not say 我开始学了中文。)(You got the right understanding about this sentence.)

    When we use double 了, we tend to put a duration of time in the sentence. For example, 我学了三年中文了。Compare:
    我学了三年中文。(I've complete a three years' study in the past. I do not emphasise if i'm learning it now.)
    我学三年中文了。(This sentence emphasises the change of the duration of time.)
    我学了三年中文了。(This sentence tell you that I have done a three years study [V了] and I'm still studying, so the duration of time will definitely grow[S了])

    I'd like to say, this is the simpliest way to explain 了, but not all about it. Well, it's better to get a "feeling" about it.
     

    我说汉语

    Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    To say "studied (sic) Chinese and am still studying it" - 我正在学中文。
    Also, in Chinese, "to revise" is "温书" (lit: to keep the books warm). You may completely revise a book or a subject, but it's almost impossible to learn a language completely.
    Today, in mandarin, we say 复习("to revise", lit. "again study") .
    In HK & TW, they still say 温书or温习.
    I think this comes from a Confucius saying "温故而知新,可以为师矣。"
    lit. "revise the old, and you can know something new, then you can be the teacher."
     

    maghanish2

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    Thanks for your answers guys! I guess my sentences were a little general, and not put into good context. So would this sentences, with the contexts, make sense then:

    我昨天想了吃飯 - Yesterday I ate food.
    我今天想吃飯了 - I want to eat food now (although yesterday I wasn't hungry for it)

    Thanks for trying to help explain Chinese! I know it has very copmlicated structures and all.

    謝謝
     
    To BODYHolic:
    I don't agree with you.

    To 我说汉语:
    The classification of “了” is right. But I disagree with your explanation.

    (1)A 了 after a verb pharse and before its object(if the verb have a object), implies the fact happened or has happened. (V了O) or (V了)
    (2)A 了 after a verb pharse and after its object(if the verb have a object), implies the fact will happen. (VO了) or (V了)
    (3+1) A 了 at the end of a sentence is a sentence marker. It may also have the function of (了1). (VO了) (V了)
    (3+2) A 了 at the end of a sentence is a sentence marker. It may also have the function of (了2). (VO了) (V了)

    A “了” can have more than one functions at the same time.

    “我學了中文”,I have studied Chinese, which emphasis the present state and the result from the fact you have studied Chinese. It may be a part of one sentence.(了1)

    “我學中文了”, I studied Chinese. It just states the fact. (了3+1)

    “我學中文了”, I will start my Chinese study. It states the fact will happen. Maybe he want to say "Do not disturb me!".(了3+2)

    “我學了中文了”, I studied Chinese or I have studied Chinese. (了1 and 了3+1 )

    The difference between (了3) and (了1) or (了2) is that (了3) is a sentence, (了1) or (了2) may not be. You can say “自從我學了中文後”, but you can't say “自從我學中文了後”.

    "Have done" and "did is" the same.

    我昨天想了吃飯 - You can't "want eat". "Eat" is not the object of the verb "want".
    我昨天吃了飯 - Yesterday I ate food. (了1)
    我昨天吃飯了 - Yesterday I ate food. (了3+1)
    (了3+1) is better if that's all you want to say.
    You can use "eat food" , "want food", but you can't "want eat". You have to "want to eat".

    我今天想吃飯了 - I want to eat now. (了3+1 or 了1)
    "want to eat" is a verb. "to eat" is used to decorate "want". You can simplify the sentence to “我想了”.

    The “了” actually only have two functions: a perfectivity marker; a modal particle.
    Chinese always put a modal particle after a sentence when they speak. If you don't do so, your audience will wait for you to continue. The sentence “我今天想吃了飯。” is very strange, you should say “我今天想吃了飯,再回家。” or “我今天吃飯了。”. But “我今天吃了飯” is acceptable. “想”+verb is very special verb phrase.
    A perfectivity mark, can be represent past perfect or future perfect. In Chinese, perfect and imperfect have not difference.
    You cant imagine that (了3+1) is 已經+V+O+了, (了3+2) is 要(將要)+V+O+了. Chinese tend to eliminate all things unnecessary. E.g. “走了” means “我(O) 將要(will)走(go)了”.
    Sometimes “了” can be replaced with other modal particles. e.g. “我學會了” —— “我學會啦” “我要走了”——“我要走啦” The word “會” “要” have already expressed the meaning of “will” "already", so the “了” is not necessary.
    So, you should first remember the complete sentence first, then you can guess the meaning of incomplete form.

    我已經學過中文。 -- bad, not modern Chinese. If you want to omit the “了”, you should write the sentence in "ancient Chinese" like “既通國語”
    我已經學過中文了。 -- longwinded .
    我己經學過中文啦。 -- the same.
    我學過中文了。 -- good.
    我學過中文啦。 -- good.
    我學中文了。 -- ambiguous.

    我將要學中文 -- bad, not modern Chinese. If you want to omit the “了”, you should write the sentence in "ancient Chinese" like “欲習國語”
    我將要學中文了。 -- longwinded .
    我將要學中文啦。 -- the same.
    我要學中文了。 -- good.
    我要學中文啦。 -- good.
    我學中文了。 -- ambiguous.
     
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    BODYholic

    Senior Member
    Chinese Cantonese
    Today, in mandarin, we say 复习("to revise", lit. "again study") .
    In HK & TW, they still say 温书or温习.
    I think this comes from a Confucius saying "温故而知新,可以为师矣。"
    lit. "revise the old, and you can know something new, then you can be the teacher."
    You are right. 复习is mainstream in Singapore too. Thanks
     

    我说汉语

    Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    我昨天想了吃飯 - Yesterday I ate food.
    我今天想吃飯了 - I want to eat food now (although yesterday I wasn't hungry for it)
    well, the second sentense is right but the first one is wrong. However, it's not the problem with 了, it's the problem with 想。
    想, as in "想+VP(verb phrase)", is an auxilary verb, something like "would like" in English. Therefore you do not put an aspect marker on it.

    Another set of examples:
    a.我买了一本书。
    b.我买书了。
    c.我打算买三本书,已经买了两本了。

    Tips:
    When the object "书" is modified by number-clasifier phrase, it's often interpreted as a specific event[tend to be understood as something happened or have been done]. When you drop the modifier and use the simplest object as in "买书", it refers to a kind of action[tend to be used for "change of state"].
     
    well, the second sentense is right but the first one is wrong. However, it's not the problem with 了, it's the problem with 想。
    想, as in "想+VP(verb phrase)", is an auxilary verb, something like "would like" in English. Therefore you do not put an aspect marker on it.

    Another set of examples:
    a.我买了一本书。
    b.我买书了。
    c.我打算买三本书,已经买了两本了。

    Tips:
    When the object "书" is modified by number-clasifier phrase, it's often interpreted as a specific event[tend to be understood as something happened or have been done]. When you drop the modifier and use the simplest object as in "买书", it refers to a kind of action[tend to be used for "change of state"].
    Of course we can say, 我买了一本书;我買一本書了;我买书了;我買了書;我打算买三本书,已经买了两本了。;已經買兩本書了。


    Since Chinese don't distinguish perfect tense and imperfect tense, 了 can be used in future tense, present tense and passed tense, someone also conclude the 了 is “A modal particle indicates certainty”.
    e.g.
    我把書買了。 finished
    去把書買了。 not happened
     
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    我说汉语

    Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    Of course we can say, 我买了一本书;我買一本書了;我买书了;我買了書;我打算买三本书,已经买了两本了。;已經買兩本書了。


    Since Chinese don't distinguish perfect tense and imperfect tense, 了 can be used in future tense, present tense and passed tense, someone also conclude the 了 is “A modal particle indicates certainty”.
    e.g.
    我把書買了。 finished
    去把書買了。 not happened
    I see, from your reply, that you must be someone in the field of Chinese Linguistics. But maybe you put this matter into a far too complecated stage. First, though you have given a much richer discription about the usage of 了, you still haven't had all possible usages. Second, We're trying to help a second language learner but not trying to explain a linguisitic problem[which is something impossible up to now].

    Yes, we can say all the ways as in your examples, but I'd like to point out that some of the sentenses are imcomplete [they can be a clause but not an indepandent sentence.].
    我買一本書了 do not sound that natural as in 我打算买三本书,已经买(了)一本(书)了。
    我買了書 do not sounds so natural as in 我买了书就回家了。/我买了书再去找你吧。

    There's also a problem in your quote that 了 is not a tense marker but an aspectual particle.(“了”不是时标记,而是体标记) So it's natural that 了 can be used in the future tense.
    TENSE: past, present, future(过去,现在,将来)
    ASPECT: perfective, continuous...(完成,进行……)
     
    I see, from your reply, that you must be someone in the field of Chinese Linguistics. But maybe you put this matter into a far too complecated stage. First, though you have given a much richer discription about the usage of 了, you still haven't had all possible usages. Second, We're trying to help a second language learner but not trying to explain a linguisitic problem[which is something impossible up to now].
    So I list the most common usages((了1) (了2) (了3+1) (了3+2)) and give him the general form definition “A modal particle indicates certainty”.
    What I did is giving him a formula, thought which he can work out the solution of the problem. Although the formula is a litter complex, but it's really worthwhile. 了 is one of the most important particle.

    Yes, we can say all the ways as in your examples, but I'd like to point out that some of the sentenses are imcomplete [they can be a clause but not an indepandent sentence.].
    Right. I have explained the difference.

    There's also a problem in your quote that 了 is not a tense marker but an aspectual particle.(“了”不是时标记,而是体标记) So it's natural that 了 can be used in the future tense.
    TENSE: past, present, future(过去,现在,将来)
    ASPECT: perfective, continuous...(完成,进行……)
    [/QUOTE]
    My mistake. Thanks for pointing out.


    In my human opinion, linguistics is for foreign learners, not native speakers. A native is aware of some subtle difference but he can't explain why. Linguists studied it and teach a learner.
     

    Grammar Fan

    Member
    American English
    I just stumbled across this thread, and I'm so glad that I did. "Le" is so difficult to understand for learners. I'm going to study the comments very carefully. I, too, thank the commenters who took the time to explain it to us learners.
     
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