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Expressing "when" with "dengdao"

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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

Structure

等(到) + Time / Event ,Subj. + 再 / 就 + Predicate

The predicate part of the pattern can be a verb or an adjective.

Examples

  • 等到 你 感觉 不 舒服 晚 了。Děngdào nǐ gǎnjué bù shūfu jiù wǎn le.It will be too late when you start feeling not well.
  • 雨 停 了 我 出门 。Děng yǔ tíng le wǒ zài chūmén.When the rain stops, then I will go outside.
  • 等到 秋天 ,这些 树叶 会 变 黄 。Děngdào qiūtiān, zhèxiē shùyè jiù huì biàn huáng.When it is autumn, the leaves will have already become yellow.
  • 做完 这个 项目 ,我 休假 。Děng zuò wán zhège xiàngmù, wǒ jiù xiūjià.I will take a vacation when I complete doing this project.
  • 等到 老板 签 了 字 ,我 做 安排 。Děngdào lǎobǎn qiān le zì, wǒ zài zuò ānpái.I will make arrangements when the boss signs the paper.

Used for the Past

Structure

等(到) + Time / Event ,Subj. + 才 + Predicate

Examples

  • 我 回 了 家 , 发现 手机 忘 在 了 出租车 上 。Děng wǒ huí le jiā, cái fāxiàn shǒujī wàng zài le chūzūchē shàng.I didn't realize I left my cellphone in the taxi until I got home.
  • 等到 孩子 上 了 小学 ,她 开始 工作 。Děngdào háizi shàng le xiǎoxué, tā cái kāishǐ gōngzuò.She didn't start working until her children went to elementary school.
  • 学生 都 安静 了 ,老师 开始 上课 。Děng xuéshēng dōu ānjìng le, lǎoshī cái kāishǐ shàngkè.The teacher didn't begin the class until the students all became quiet.
  • 他 有 了 孩子 , 知道 做 父母 多么 不 容易 。Děng tā yǒu le háizi, cái zhīdào zuò fùmǔ duōme bù róngyì.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 , 发现 他 没有 带 钥匙 。Děngdào tā de le áizhèng, cái yìshí dào jiànkāng yǒu duō bǎoguì.It wasn't until he got home that he found that he didn't have his keys.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books