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"le" after an object

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You may have learned that 了 (le) follows immediately after a verb to indicate completion (AKA 了1), and comes at the end of a sentence when it indicates a "change of state" (AKA 了2). But what's the explanation for how it frequently follows not the verb, but the object after the verb? That's what this grammar point is about: bringing a bit more depth to your understanding of expressing completion with "le".

Two Possible Structures

Both of these basic structures are possible (and correct):

Verb + Obj. + 了

Verb + 了 + Obj.

The point of this article is to determine when to use one, and when to use the other. Note that there maybe be other words and phrases slipped into the general patterns above.

了 directly followed by Object


Verb + 了 + Obj.

  • 我 吃 早饭 。I had breakfast.
  • 妈妈 找到 新 工作 。Mom found a new job.
  • 他 买 iPhone 。He bought an iPhone.


If the object placed after the verb is very simple, it is typical to have something modifying the object, such as a number and measure word, an adjective, or 限定性短语, or the sentence should specify a time, place, reason, or method for the action. (If this paragraph gets included, it probably should go somewhere below)


  • 我 上 课 。 I took the class (and I finished it).
  • 她 看 电视.She watched TV.
  • 老师 问 问题。The teacher asked questions.


If there is another 了 placed at the end of the sentence, it can add a stronger emphasis that the action was completed, in the same way we might say we "did finish the work" instead of just saying we "finished the work."


  • 我 做 作业 , 你 要 看 吗?I did finish my homework. Do you want to see it?
  • 我们 吃 ,你 不用 给 我们 做 吃的。We did eat.You don't need to cook for us.
  • 他 问 经理 , 经理 说 行。He did ask the manager, and he said yes.

Object with a Number and Measure Word


When the object is preceded by a number and measure word, the 了 is usually placed directly after the verb. It indicates the completion of the action, and shows that the object directly following it is receiving the action of the verb.


Verb + 了 + Number + Measure Word + Obj.


  • 我 买 五 本 他的书。I bought five of his books.
  • 他们 昨天 看 两 场 电影。 They went to see two movies yesterday .
  • 他 午饭 花 两 千 多 块 。He spent more than two thousand kuai on his lunch.
  • 你 请 几 个 朋友 ?How many friends have you invited?
  • 老师 问 五 个 问题 。The teacher asked five questions.


If another 了 is added at the end of the sentence, it indicates two things. One is to emphasize or imply that the number in front of the object is already a big number, and the other is to indicate that this number could continue to grow.

  • 我 给 他 打 十 几 个 电话I've made more than ten phone calls to him.
  • 他 帮 几 十 个 农村 的 孩子 He's helped a few dozen kids from the rural area.
  • 我 哥哥 换 三 个 女朋友 My older brother has had three girlfriends.


If the object has both a number-measure-word pair and a general adjective associated with it, then it is not very suitable to use an extra 了 in the emphatic way described above.

  • 我 买 五本 有意思的 书 I‘ve bought five interesting books.


A verb-object structured word, such as "看书," "吃饭," or "结婚," a phrase like "结婚了" would simply indicate that the action or state has been completed, whereas "结了婚" would, in addition, indicate that the speaker has more to say or comment on after the phrase.

  • 我 已经 下班 I‘m off work now.
  • 我 下 班 就 去 见 你。I‘ll see you as soon as I get off work.
  • 他 去年 离婚He got a divorce last year.
  • 他 去年 离 婚 以后 又 找 了 一 个 女人。After the divorce last year, he found another woman.


In a list of consecutive events, the position of 了 serves to signal the purpose of the events.

  • 他 上周 帮 我 搬家 。He helped me move last week.
  • 老板 请 我 吃 一 顿 大餐。My boss invited me to a big dinner.

Sources and further reading