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Expressing "when" with "shi"

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By now you should now how to express "when" using "的时候" (de shíhou). But there's also a slightly shorter, more formal way to do it: simply use 时 (shí) all by itself. (No 的!)

Structure

Verb-Obj. + 时 ,Subj. ⋯⋯

As time words can appear before or after the subject, you can also place the Verb-Obj. + 时 after the subject.

There are two great examples of this pattern in the poem below:

一会儿看我

一会儿看云

你看我时很远

你看云时很近

Examples

  • 考试 不要 说话 。Kǎoshì shí bùyào shuōhuà.Don't talk when you take a test.
  • 我 面试 经常 会 问 这个 问题 。Wǒ miànshì shí jīngcháng huì wèn zhège wèntí.I often ask this question in a job interview.
  • 会议 结束 老板 才 来 。Huìyì jiéshù shí lǎobǎn cái lái.The boss didn't show up until the meeting was over.
  • 我 生气 不 想 说话 。Wǒ shēngqì shí bù xiǎng shuōhuà.I don't want to talk when I'm angry.
  • 他们 大学 毕业 就 分手 了 。Tāmen dàxué bìyè shí jiù fēnshǒu le.They broke up when they graduated from college.
  • 飞机 起飞 ,他 关 了 手机 和 电脑 。Fēijī qǐfēi shí, tā guān le shǒujī hé diànnǎo.When the plane took off, he turned off his cell phone and computer.
  • 他 太太 提出 离婚 ,他 很 惊讶 。Tā tàitai tíchū líhūn shí, tā hěn jīngyà.He was very surprised when his wife asked for a divorce.
  • 他 去世 ,他 的 孩子 都 不 在 身边 。Tā qùshì shí, tā de háizi dōu bù zài shēnbiān.His children weren't with him when he passed away.
  • 我们 公司 成立 只有 三 个 人 。Wǒmen gōngsī chénglì shí zhǐyǒu sān gè rén.There were only three people when this company was founded.
  • 跟 别人 说话 不要 玩 手机 。Gēn biérén shuōhuà shí bùyào wán shǒujī.Don't play with your cell phone when you talk with other people.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books