Expressing "less than" with "budao"
The word 到 (dào) means "arrive," but it can also mean "to reach" or "to get to" in an abstract sense. So in this pattern, 不到 (bùdào) means "to not reach (the amount of)," or, to put it another way, "to be less than."
Subj. + 不到 + Number + [Measure Word] + Noun
- 我 女儿 不到 三 岁 。My daughter is not yet three years old.
- 我 昨天 睡 了 不到 五 个 小时 。 Yesterday I slept for almost five hours.
- 这 件 衣服 花 了 不到 一 百 块 。On this piece of clothing I spent less than 100 RMB.
- 我 家 到 公司 不到 五 百 米 。My house is less than 500 meters from the office.
- 在 美国 ，不到 21 岁 不 能 喝酒 。In the US, if you're under 21 you can't drink alcohol.
When 不到 (bùdào) is put before a time or a duration of time, it needs to be followed with 就 (jiù). This shows that something (usually referring to the past) has happened earlier than expected.
Subj. + 不到 + Time + 就 + Predicate + 了
- 她 的 病 不到 一个 星期 就 好 了 。Her sickness got better in less than a week.
- 他们 认识 不到 两 个 月 就 结婚 了 。After knowing each other for less than two months they got married.
- 李 医生 不到 55 岁 就 退休 了 。Dr. Li retired at under the age of 55.
- 爷爷 不到 60 岁 就 去世 了 。My grandpa was less than 60 years old when he died.
- 老板 不到 30 岁 就 有 白 头发 了 。My boss is less than 30 years old and already has some gray hair.
For other similar uses of 就, see also expressing earliness with "jiu."
- Emphasizing quantity with "dou"
- Referring to "all" using "suoyou"
- Indicating a number in excess
- Indicating the whole with "quan"