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History

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CHI506 Grammar (Lesson 5.2)
Grammar points: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Copyright © 2012 Wen-Hua Teng

The use of particle 了 as the perfective aspect particle The use of 了 as a modal particle Grammar structures involving the use of 了 Perfective aspect particle 了 in a complex sentence in lieu of the word ‘after’ The use of 才

⚑ 1. The use of particle 了 as the perfective aspect particle a. When to use 了 (or when not to use it) is considered by many learners to be the most confusing grammar point in Chinese. b. Although the presence of 了 in a sentence often indicates that the action has occurred, it is NOT equivalent to the past tense in English. c. The Chinese language does not have tenses; instead, it has aspects (a linguistic/grammar term), which indicate the stages of an action. d. 了 can appear immediately after a verb (must be an action verb, not a static or non-action verb) to indicate the action has taken place or has been completed. Therefore, it is usually referred to as the perfective aspect particle. e. A completed action can occur in the future, meaning the action will have taken place at a certain point in the future. f. When to use the perfective aspect particle 了: Use 了 immediately after the verb when the action already occurred (in a past time frame) AND when i ii iii there is a modifier or a number before the noun, or the noun refers to a person . (In this sense, and only in this sense, the function of 了 is similar to that of a past tense.) Yesterday I drank three bottles of beer, so my wife was upset. ii 昨天我喝了三瓶 啤酒,所以我太太很不高兴。 past time frame but no action, hence no 了 iii past time frame action verb

a number

Last week I met Little Zhang’s older sister at his house.

上 (个) 星期我在小张家认识了他姐姐 。
(Pronouns can only be used after the noun or proper noun has been mentioned. Do NOT say 上个 星期我在他家认识了小张的姐姐。)

Past time frame

action verb

a person

(Scenario: Little Li tells his mother whom he invited to his house for dinner the day before.)

妈妈:你请了几个 人? How many people did you invite? iii 小李:我只请了小张 。 I only invited Xiao Zhang. ii 妈妈:是吗?那你做了几个 菜?Is that so? Then how many dishes did you make? ii 小李:我做了五个 菜? I cooked/made five dishes. ii 妈妈:什么?两个人吃了五个 菜? What? Two people ate five dishes? 小李:对,因为小张很爱吃中国菜。That’s right! Because Xiao Zhang loves to eat Chinese food very much. A simple question with the question word 谁 can have 了 after the verb. (Scenario: About a dinner party. ) 高:昨天小王在他女朋友家请客,他做了几个 菜。 王:是吗?为什么在他女朋友家请?(No 了 after 请.) 高:因为他女朋友家大,(他家小)。 iv 王:他请了谁 ? vi or iii iii ii 高:他请了我 ,也请了我妹妹 ,还请了几个 同学。 v 王:他做了什么 菜? i or vi ii 高:他做了中国 菜,他女朋友是日本人,所以她做了两个 日本菜。
⚑ 2. The use of 了 as a modal particle (a.k.a. sentence-final particle) ii iv

ii

or 什么 , and the answer

v

vi

to such a question

a. When 了 appears at the end of the sentence, it is considered a modal particle. ( ☞ See Section
4 in L 5.1 grammar for information on modal particles.) b. 了 as a modal particle has a variety of meanings and usages including, but not limited to, the emergence of a new situation, the change of the situation and implying “already.” However, these usages are not the concern of the current lesson. d. Sentences with instantaneous verbs normally should have a 了 at the end of the sentence (particularly when the sentence ends with the verb 来 or 去) if the action has occurred. 来 and 去 are two of the instantaneous verbs you have learned so far. 进 is also considered an instantaneous verb. ⚑ An instantaneous verb usually marks a clear distinction between the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ situations. (You can think of this as ‘crossing a line.’) The action CANNOT last. ☞ See the course packet for a list of instantaneous verbs introduced in this semester.

昨天我请客,小李和他女朋友都来了。
Yesterday I had a dinner party. Both Little Li and his girlfriend came.

A: I went to see you yesterday, but you weren’t home. Where did you go?

昨天我去找你,可是你不在,你去哪儿了?
B: I went to watch a ball game. 我去看球了。 There is 去 but no 了 because this is not the end of the sentence yet.

3. Grammar structures involving the use of 了 a. To ask a yes-no question for an action that has taken place, use i verb (+ noun) + 了吗? 你吃饭了吗?小王吃了吗? ii verb (+ noun) + 了没有? 你吃饭了没有?小王吃了没有? iii verb + noun + 没有? 你吃饭没有? iv two-character verb + 了吗? 你们认识了吗?(认识 means ‘to meet’ here.) v two-character verb + 了没有? 你们认识了没有? vi two-character verb + 没有? 你们认识没有? (Note:认识 is the only two-character action verb you have learned so far.) (Keep in mind that a yes-no question generally does not include a number.) b. To give a positive (affirmative) answer to a yes-no question, 了 should be used. A: The movie “Beijing and New York” is not bad. Have you seen it?

《北京和纽约》这个电影不错,你看了吗 i?(= 你看了没有?ii)
B: Yes, I have.

(我) 看了。
Dad: Your mom made several dishes today. Did you have any?

爸爸:你妈妈今天做了几个菜,你吃了吗?(= 你吃了没有?)
Son: Yes, I did. But she made Chinese and Japanese. I only had the Chinese dishes.

儿子:吃了,可是她做了中国菜和日本菜,我只吃了中国菜。
A: Yesterday Old Li had a dinner party. Did you (plural) drink alcohol?

昨天老李请客,你们喝酒了吗?(= 你们喝酒了没有?= 你们喝酒没有?)
B: We did. But I only had a glass of white wine. All the other people had five or six beers.

喝了。可是我只喝了一杯白酒,别人都喝了五、六瓶啤酒。
c. To give a negative answer to a yes-no question or to make a stand-alone negative statement, use 没有 or 没 (有) + verb. Do NOT use 了. Do not confuse 没有 in ‘没有 + verb’ and 没有 in ‘没有 + noun.”

did not do the action

do/does not own the noun

A: Tuesday was Xiao Gao’s birthday. He had a dinner party at a restaurant. Did he invite you?

星期二是小高的生日。他在饭馆请客,他请你 (了) 没有?(= 他请你了吗?)
B: He did. He also (in addition to me) invited several classmates.

请了,他还请了几个同学。
A: Did Old Wang go?

老王去了没有?(= 老王去了吗?But NOT 老王去没有?)
B: He didn’t go, but his wife did.

他没 (有) 去,可是他太太去了。
A: Why didn’t Old Wang go? Did you ask his wife?

老王为什么没 (有) 去? 你问他太太了没有?
B: I did. His wife said that he had not slept Monday night, so he was sleeping at home.

问了。他太太说 (shu

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