Expressing "when" with "dengdao"
The word 等到 (děngdào) can trip up learners, because while it can literally mean "wait until," it also has the less literal translation meaning "when (the time comes)" or "by the time." This is a pattern that appears in complex sentences, with 等到 acting as a conjunction and appearing in the first part as the first word in the sentence.
Used for the Future
等(到) + Time / Event ，Subj. + 再 / 就 + Predicate
The predicate part of the pattern can be a verb or an adjective.
- 等到 你 感觉 不 舒服 就 晚 了。It will be too late when you start feeling not well.
- 等 雨 停 了 我 再 出门 。When the rain stops, then I will go outside.
- 等到 秋天 ，这些 树叶 就 会 变 黄 。When it is autumn, the leaves will have already become yellow.
- 等 做完 这个 项目 ，我 就 休假 。I will take a vacation when I complete doing this project.
- 等到 老板 签 了 字 ，我 再 做 安排 。I will make arrangements when the boss signs the paper.
Used for the Past
等(到) + Time / Event ，Subj. + 才 + Predicate
- 等 我 回 了 家 ，才 发现 手机 忘 在 了 出租车 上 。I didn't realize I left my cellphone in the taxi until I got home.
- 等到 孩子 上 了 小学 ，她 才 开始 工作 。She didn't start working until her children went to elementary school.
- 等 学生 都 安静 了 ，老师 才 开始 上课 。The teacher didn't begin the class until the students all became quiet.
- 等 他 有 了 孩子 ，才 知道 做 父母 多么 不 容易 。It wasn't until he had a child that he realized how hard it is to be a parent.
- 等到 他 到 家 了 ，才 发现 他 没有 带 钥匙 。It wasn't until he got home that he found that he didn't have his keys.
Sources and further reading