Expressing earliness with "jiu"
Just as 才 (cái) can express lateness, 就 (jiù) can be used to indicate that something happened earlier than expected.
The pattern is as follows:
Subject + Time + 就 + Verb + Object
In English this might be expressed with "as early as", but usually it's not specifically marked.
- 我们 早上 九点 上课，可是 他 八点 就 来了。We have class at nine in the morning, but he came at eight.
- 他没吃早饭 就 去上学了。He went to school without breakfast.
- 她 十八 岁 就 大学 毕业 了。She graduated from college when she was only 18 years old.
- 我们 上次 出去 玩，他 九点 就 回去 了。The last time we went out, he had to go back at nine.
- 我 五 点 钟 就 到 了 饭馆，你 让 我 等 这么 久，罚 你 请客！I got to the restaurant at 5 o'clock. You made me wait for so long, so you need to pay the check.
From the example sentences it is clear that 了 naturally occurs with a verb used after 就. This is because verbs following 就 generally have the feeling of being completed.
- Comparing "cai" and "jiu"
- Events in quick succession with "yi... jiu"
- Expressing indifference with "jiu"
- Limiting scope with "jiu"
- "If…, then…" with "ruguo…, jiu…"
Sources and further reading
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (pp. 181-2) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 102-3) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (p. 239)→buy
- East Asia Student: 就 and 才 in Mandarin: as early as, not until