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Expressing "almost" using "chadian"

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To say that something bad almost happened (but didn't), you can add the word 差点 (chàdiǎn) before the verb. You will also hear 差点儿 (chàdiǎnr) in northern China. There is no difference in meaning between 差点 and 差点儿.

Literal Meaning

It might help to understand the literal meaning of the structure. The word 差 has a lot of meanings. In this case, it means "to lack," or "to be short." So in Chinese, the way to say "almost" is to say, "lacking that little bit." If that "little bit" hadn't been lacking, it would have happened. But it was lacking, so it didn't happen. Technically, it almost happened. Just remember: the fact of what really happened is always the opposite of the verb phrase after 差点(儿).

Structure

Note that the "Verb Phrase" part of the structure is usually something bad or something you don't wish for, and that it didn't happen.

Subj. + 差点 + Predicate

You can put 了 at the end of the sentence for emphasis. In this case, 就 is often used and it's optional.

Subj. + 差点 (+就) + Predicate + 了

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

Examples

  • 差点 撞到 我 。The car didn't hit me.Chē chàdiǎn zhuàngdào wǒ.The car almost hit me.
  • 我们 差点 相信 他 。We didn't believe himWǒmen chàdiǎn xiāngxìn tā.We almost believed him.
  • 他们 差点 打 起来 。They didn't start a fight.Tāmen chàdiǎn dǎ qǐlái.They almost started a fight.
  • 差点I didn't forget.chàdiǎn wàng le.I almost forgot.
  • 我 今天 差点 迟到 I wasn't lateWǒ jīntiān chàdiǎn chídào le.I was almost late today.
  • 差点She didn't go crazy.chàdiǎn fēng le.She almost went crazy.
  • 差点 He didn't die.chàdiǎn jiùle.He almost died.
  • 差点It wasn't burned.Cài chàdiǎnle.The food was almost burnt.
  • 我们 队 差点the team didn't loseWǒmen duì chàdiǎn shū le.Our team almost lost.
  • 差点 做到 I didn't manage to do it.chàdiǎn jiù zuòdào le.I almost did it.

Using 差点 with 没

This can get confusing, even though it's really the same pattern (and same logic) with a little added complexity. This pattern goes beyond the difficulty level of the needs of the B1 learner, so to learn more about this usage, see expressing "almost" using "chadian mei".

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

Dictionaries