DernierVirage

Senior Member
English - United Kingdom
I hope someone can help me with my grammar work(I am studying Putonghua on a part time basis).

I have a lot of trouble understanding the usage of the particle "le": when it must be used, when it must not be used, when it can be omitted etc. My problems are compounded by the different ways that the particle is used - completed action, continuing action, change of status...

Is there any reliable Internet source that can give me some useful rules to follow ? So far, all that I find are the same "rules" that I know, but this does not help me to apply the to real use of the language. If anyone can suggest any links or can give me any advice, I would be very grateful.

Thanks in advance.
 
  • Lamb67

    Senior Member
    China/Mandarin
    I suppose you are lacking of practise, simple as that.

    Bring an exercise book and please note 'le' like other linguistic things, must be learnt in a full sentence.
     

    vincentsh

    New Member
    CHINESE
    “了”助词--auxiliary word
    (用在动词或形容词后, 表示动作或变化已经完成)---after verb and adj,mean the action or change is over or finished
     

    schui

    New Member
    Chinese
    (in modern chinese not in classical Chinese)

    1.
    “了” in syntax
    了 particle (grammatical)
    pronunciation【le】
    "了" is perfect tense
    e.g
    读了两遍
    读 v.=read
    两=two
    遍 is a measure word, approximately in here = time in repetition
    两+遍=twice
    read +了+twice = have read twice
    我(i) 读 了 两遍=I have read twice
    v.+了=have+past participle

    春天来了
    春天 n.=spring
    来 v.=come
    春天来了=The spring has come

    苹果红了
    苹果 n.=apple
    红 adj.=red
    苹果红了= Apple has become red ( Apple has got red)
    There's no verb in sentence.
    ellipsis

    2.
    “了” in word or phrase
    pronunciation 【 liǎo】
    word :没完没了 = no end
    word: 了解=understand
    word(idiom): 了无惧色=not a bit of fear(idiom)
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Thanks for the replies, Lamb67 is right, practice is the key and I do in fact keep notes to try to improve my understanding of the usage of this particle.

    My problem is that I find it hard to differentiate between the concepts of "completed action" (= perfect tense) and "change in circumstances", which almost seem contradictory to me.

    This is by far the most impenetrable part of Chinese grammar for me :(

    Anyway, thanks again to you all for your help.

    vincentsh and shui: I've read your replies, thanks.

    Just to illustrate my difficulties, here are 2 sentences where I have trouble undestanding the use of "le" (I am sorry to use Pinyin here, but I am on a computer right now where I cannot write in characters):

    "wo zhong wen xue le yi nian le" = I have been learning for one year (and am still learning)
    "wo zhong wen xue le yi nian" = I learnt for one year (but no longer do so)

    It seems to me that "le" in the first sentence is used in 2 different ways, which makes it hard for me to construct other sentences correctly.

    Do you have any advice for me ?

    Thanks !
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    w84u

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    "wo zhong wen xue le yi nian le" = I have been learning for one year (and am still learning)
    "wo zhong wen xue le yi nian" = I learnt for one year (but no longer do so)
    我中文学一年

    The second 了 is used as a mood indicator(only when at the end of a sentence), and you can replace it with 啦:

    我中文学一年

    Remember, when it acts as a perfect tense maker, 了 usually comes next to a verb (and sometimes to an adjective).
     
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    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    w84u - thanks, this is very helpful.

    As regards the first , is it a tense marker, or is it used to emphasise change/new information (in other words, to emphasise that previously I didn't study Chinese but at a point in the past I started to do so) ?

    The use of the second as a mood indicator, is this to emphasise continuing action ? Your suggestion to also use here is very interesting, as I thought that this character is normally used only in a very informal way....

    Sorry to ask such simple questions, but the use of always causes big problems for me !
     
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    vincentsh

    New Member
    CHINESE
    Agree with SUI.

    for example:

    1 你吃了吗? 我吃了。

    “了” as the "eat" action is over. in english, did you ate?


    2 大家吃饭了!

    "了" Modal Auxiliary. be careful the mark "!" which hints that "le" have no meaning just a kind of mood expression.
    sometimes the mark will give you some hint!

    3 give you a traditonal example

    我吃了。the "le" tone is normal and the mark"o" which mean the action is over.
    我吃了! the "le" tone is higer than other words and time is longer than others. the mark "!" all hint the "le" is mood expression.
    in english, i will eat right now (let others know i am eating)

    enjoy it
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    Thanks for your help here, I understand point 1 no problem.

    In point 2, can you explain why 了 is not also expressing a completed past action as well ? Is it because of the exclamation mark ?

    In your point 3, is the second use of 了 therefore emphasising the change in situation (before I wasn't eating, but now I am..)? Is this what you mean by "mood expression" ? And would you normally expect something to precede the statement, such as "I am hungry" etc.., otherwise how do you know that 了 is not just indicating a completed action ?

    I hope I'm not asking more stupid questions here, I appreciate everyone's help.
     

    w84u

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    As a tense maker, 了 can be used to express almost all perfect tense meanings in English: a state, a lasting action, the result of a previous action etc. Just use the tense-making 了 the same way you use perfect tense in English.

    We do use 了 to emphasise some change, e.g. 三个月前我开始学英语了--but I'd like to put this usage into the mood indicator group. In this situation, 啦 sounds abviously stronger than 了,and they can convey different moods:

    (1)我赢了/啦!( I've won./I am the winner.) -- to show cheerfulness
    (2)我输了/啦!(I lost./I've been defeated.) -- to show your dismay
    (3)我要睡了/啦! (I want to go to bed now.) --to announce a decision
    (4)你要挨骂了/啦! (You are to be scolded.) -- to warn sb.
    (5)我学中文都快三年了/啦!(I've learned Chinese for almost three years) -- to express an exclamation: Time flies!
    (6)--你的普通话讲得真好!(You speak perfect Mandarin)
    --我学中文都快三年了/啦!(I've learned Chinese for almost three years)--to give an explanation in a proud tone

    If the change has already taken place, as in (1)(2)(5)(6),了 seems to be performing its tense-making function at the same time.
     

    DernierVirage

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    If the change has already taken place, as in (1)(2)(5)(6),了 seems to be performing its tense-making function at the same time.
    This is where I always have difficulty, since the emphasis on change can be in respect of an action that is completed, or still ongoing. I guess that the context can sometimes make the situation clear, but not always...In other words, I am right to say there is no "easy" way to be 100% sure of knowing what the function of 了is ?

    Thanks very much for taking the trouble to help me, I have had endless discussions with my teacher about this but am still a bit lost !
     

    vincentsh

    New Member
    CHINESE
    about " 我吃了!" you can think it as a declaration " stop doing everything in hand and i will eat!". mark "!" is important suggestion.
     

    Icetrance

    Senior Member
    US English
    This has to be one of the most confusing points in modern Mandarin grammar.

    In negative sentences, you never 了 as a tense marker; neither do you use them with verbs of perception/desire, etc.

    Is it true that you never use 了 with coverbs? An example would be, "I went to school by bus" (zuò) Or, "He said 'hello' to me in Chinese" (yòng)?

    I am trying to understand cases where you don't use this aspect marker. o_O

    Thank you :)
     

    Ghabi

    AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod
    Cantonese
    An example would be, "I went to school by bus" (zuò) Or, "He said 'hello' to me in Chinese" (yòng)?
    In these examples 坐 and 用 don't have much verbal force (as shown in their English translations, as prepositions), and the idea of aspect doesn't really apply here. When they're used as full-force verbs, they can still be used with le of course.
     

    KK_Tse

    Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    I hope someone can help me with my grammar work(I am studying Putonghua on a part time basis).

    I have a lot of trouble understanding the usage of the particle "le": when it must be used, when it must not be used, when it can be omitted etc. My problems are compounded by the different ways that the particle is used - completed action, continuing action, change of status...

    Is there any reliable Internet source that can give me some useful rules to follow ? So far, all that I find are the same "rules" that I know, but this does not help me to apply the to real use of the language. If anyone can suggest any links or can give me any advice, I would be very grateful.

    Thanks in advance.
    You may want to distinguish two 了's. Let's call them the verbal suffix (VS)了 and the sentence particle (SP)了.
    The following discussion focuses on the VS 了:

    了 indicates that a process P (an action or event) is located on the time plane at an instant Ti, and that this occurrence Pi has a distinguishable value more than just "something that happened in time": It can be (1) something that is supposed to be done (你拿了签证了吗?), or (2) something that leads to a result (他去了广州 - therefore he is no longer here), or (3) something worth to be mentioned (我吃了一个榴莲、他写了一首诗歌).

    In (1), the occurrence is distinguishable because it corresponds to a pre-defined objective.

    In (2), 去 is a telic process that implies a transition from one point to another, hence a change of state which makes the occurrence distinguishable. Other telic process include 来,过(桥),开(门),关,死,etc.

    In (3), it is simply distinguishable. Why it is distinguishable depends very much on the context, and sometimes can be an object of controversy:
    A: 他写了一首情诗,你要看吗?
    B: 有什么稀奇的?他一天到晚都写这些乱七八糟的东西,烦死人。

    It is interesting to note that in sentences like (3), the quantifier (量词) must be used. It is difficult to say ??我吃了榴莲,??他写了诗歌 (unless when answering to the question 你吃了什么/他写了什么, which implies a pre-defined objective), as opposed to saying 我吃过榴莲/他昨天在家里写诗歌,where the occurrence is just "something that has happened in time".

    Precisely, the role of the quantifier is to make the occurrence "quantifiable" so that it can "stand out", can be "seized".

    On the other hand, a distinguishable occurrence located at an instant is a closed object (i.e. we can identify this thing clearly on the time plane). That is why the process is usually interpreted as a completed action or closed event.

    For lack of time, I won't touch on cases like 他老了、胖了、瘦了、高了、矮了、etc., where the predicate can be associated to a kind of gradient: 相当老、很胖、十分高、非常矮. When we say 她瘦了, it does not necessarily mean that she has become slim: she can still be fat.
    A: 几个星期没看到你,你好像瘦了?
    B: 是吗?我在减肥呢,不过还是很胖,我要再加把劲!

    I hope the above can be of help to your.
     

    Icetrance

    Senior Member
    US English
    In these examples 坐 and 用 don't have much verbal force (as shown in their English translations, as prepositions), and the idea of aspect doesn't really apply here. When they're used as full-force verbs, they can still be used with le of course.
    Thank you so much for your help!:)

    I think I understand: When you say "by bus" or "in Chinese", the focus isn't on "completion". The verb "去" is simply a means to an end when used in conjunction with "by bus" or "in Chinese". It's for that reason that you don't use "了", if I do understand correctly.
     
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