Expressing "when" with "shi"
By now you should now how to express "when" using 的时候 (de shíhou). But there's also a slightly shorter, more formal way to do it: simply use 时 (shí) all by itself. (No 的!)
Time + 时 ，Subj. ⋯⋯
As time words can appear before or after the subject, you can also place the "Time + 时" phrase after the subject.
- 考试 时 不要 说话 。Don't talk when you're taking a test.
- 我 面试 时 经常 会 问 这个 问题 。I often ask this question during job interviews.
- 会议 结束 时 老板 才 来 。The boss didn't show up until the meeting was over.
- 我 生气 时 不 想 说话 。I don't want to talk when I'm angry.
- 他们 大学 毕业 时 就 分手 了 。They broke up when they graduated from college.
- 飞机 起飞 时 ，他 关 了 手机 和 电脑 。When the plane took off, he turned off his cell phone and computer.
- 他 太太 提出 离婚 时 ，他 很 惊讶 。He was very surprised when his wife asked for a divorce.
- 他 去世 时 ，他 的 孩子 都 不 在 身边 。His children weren't with him when he passed away.
- 我们 公司 成立 时 只有 三 个 人 。There were only three people when this company was founded.
- 跟 别人 说话 时 不要 玩 手机 。Don't play with your cell phone when you're talking with other people.
There are also two great examples of this pattern in the poem 《远和近》 by Gu Cheng (顾城) below:
Sources and further reading
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (pp. 24-5) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 293-4) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy