I studied Chinese for two years.

yuechu

Senior Member
Canada, English
大家好!

I'm starting to try to learn how to use 了 correctly and had a question about the usage of 了 in the following example:
我学了两年中文。

Are the following sentences also correct?
我学两年(的?)中文了。
我学了两年(的?)中文了。

If so, what is the difference?
Sorry if these are very basic questions! I sometimes have trouble understanding even some basic aspects of Chinese grammar, I think. Thank you in advance for your help!
 
  • fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    Well, 了 isn't a simple question...

    You do need the first 了. 的 is optional. The sentence will have different meanings if add/remove the second 了.

    The second 了 is actually easier to explain. Basically, the function of the final 了 is similar to the "perfect aspect". In this case 我学了两年中文了 is similar to "I have been studying Chinese for two years" in English. That is, you were studying Chinese in the past two years and you are still doing it now.
    If without the final 了, the sentence would have a simple past tense:
    我年轻的时候学了两年中文,但现在忘光了 = I studied Chinese for two years when I was young, but I have forgotten everything.
    我年轻的时候学了两年中文,所以现在看得懂这张报纸 = I studied Chinese for two years when I was young, so I can understand this newspaper.
    我先学了两年中文,又学了两年希腊文 = I studied Chinese for two years, then studied Greek for another two years.

    For the first 了, I think its function is called "perfective aspect" (not to be confused with the "perfect aspect" above). I don't understand the definition very well myself so I'll let others to explain it.

    BTW, if you change the word order to 我学中文两年(了), you won't need the first 了 anymore. But that's a different story (maybe "for learning Chinese (topic), it's been two years").
     

    little Rabbit

    Member
    Chinese
    I think the above three sentences by@baosheng are correct.

    To me,

    我学了两年中文。The stress in on 中文, or 两年中文。

    我学两年(的?)中文了。The stress is on 两年。
    我学了两年(的?)中文了 I think the stress is still on 两年。

    Those sentences are so hard to explain. I do not have a lot linguistic knowledge of Chinese...I think the function words are very hard to explain. I explain them according to my intuitions....
     

    Hyperpolyglot

    Senior Member
    British Official English
    大家好!

    I'm starting to try to learn how to use 了 correctly and had a question about the usage of 了 in the following example:
    我学了两年中文。

    Are the following sentences also correct?
    我学两年(的?)中文了。
    我学了两年(的?)中文了。

    If so, what is the difference?
    Sorry if these are very basic questions! I sometimes have trouble understanding even some basic aspects of Chinese grammar, I think. Thank you in advance for your help!
    You can try 我了断了中文学习两年
    By wrapping 断 with 了 in this usage you have double 了 to emphasize it better, you can also flexibly insert another 了 at the end to emphasize it maximally:
    我了断了中文学习两年了
     

    little Rabbit

    Member
    Chinese
    You can try 我了断了中文学习两年
    By wrapping 断 with 了 in this usage you have double 了 to emphasize it better, you can also flexibly insert another 了 at the end to emphasize it maximally:
    我了断了中文学习两年了
    I think 了 is an indicator of stress....I am not sure.....
     

    fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    You can try 我了断了中文学习两年
    Is this Cantonese or something? This sentence does not make any sense to me.
    OR do you want to say I have stopped learning Chinese for two years? (In this case I wouldn't phrase in this way. Something like 我停止学习中文两年了 would be better.)
    OR do you want to say I have stopped two years' Chinese studying? (That would be 我中断了两年的中文学习)

    The final 了 at the end of sentence marks perfect aspect as I've said. I think the sentence have very clearly different meanings with or without the final 了.

    For omitting the 了 right after 学, I agree that 我学两年中文了 can sound correct if there is no 的 and the sentence is read with a special intonation (extra stress on 两年 like little Rabit said, e.g. 我都学两~年~中文了). I'm not sure why.
     
    Last edited:

    andyhu

    Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    You can try 我了断了中文学习两年
    By wrapping 断 with 了 in this usage you have double 了 to emphasize it better, you can also flexibly insert another 了 at the end to emphasize it maximally:
    我了断了中文学习两年了
    With all due respect, the sentense is terribly broken and doesn't make any sense.
    It literally means: I have broken up already studying Chinese two years already.
    断 means break, stop, apart
    了断 means finished with and then keep away from sth., probably will not going to touch it ever again in the entire life. It doesn't have any meaning of 'already'. The emphasis is to break up with sb./sth. and usually emotional. The connotation is that sb. had enough of sth., so it's time to stop doing sth., or pay off debt to each other (figuratively) so they can have no further relationship.
    Instead, you could say: 我已经学(习)了两年中文了
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    A: 你結婚多久了?
    B: 我結婚兩年了。It has been two years since I got married.

    A: 你學中文多久了?
    B: 我學中文兩年了。It has been two years since I first started studying Chinese.

    A: 你婚結了多久?
    B: 我婚結了兩年。我結了兩年婚。My marriage lasted for two years. I was married for two years.

    A: 你中文學了多久? 你學了多久中文?
    B: 我中文學了兩年。我學了兩年中文。My study of Chinese lasted for two years. I studied Chinese for two years.

    A: 你婚結了多久了? 你結了幾年婚了? 你結婚有多久了?
    B: 我婚結了兩年了。我結了兩年婚了。我結婚有兩年了。I have been married for two years.

    A: 你中文學了多久了? 你學了幾年中文了? 你學中文有多久了?
    B: 我中文學了兩年了。我學了兩年中文了。我學中文有兩年了。I have been studying Chinese for two years.
     

    andyhu

    Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    It's interesting that in mainland China the usage of "我婚結了兩年" doesn't sound correct. But you could say 我中文学了两年. I guess the reason is that 结婚 is not an action you could keep doing, instead it's done only once an. But 学习 is an action which could last a long time.
    It's like that you can't say I have been marrying for two years. But you could say I have been studying Chinese for two years.
     
    Last edited:
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