Expressing "already" with just "le"

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You understand the word 已经 (yǐjīng) to mean "already" in Chinese, and it is followed with a 了 (le). However, sometimes, that feeling of "already" can also be expressed with 了 (le) alone if it is used in response to a preceding question or statement.


Subj. + [Verb Phrase] + 了


When "already" is implied using this structure, it is usually (if not always) in response to a preceding question or statement. Therefore, the following examples are in dialog format.

  • A: 老板 呢?Lǎobǎn ne? Where is the boss?
  • B:他 走 Tā zǒu le.He has (already) left.
  • A: 孩子 还在 上 大学 吗?Háizi hái zài shàng dàxué ma? Are your kids still in college?
  • B:他们 工作 This expression emphasizes that they're not students anymore, and have already entered the workforce.Tāmen gōngzuò le.They (already) work.
  • A: 用 我 的 车 吧?Yòng wǒ de chē ba? How about using my car?
  • B:谢谢,我们 有 车 Xièxie, wǒmen yǒu chē le.Thanks. We (already) have a car.
  • A:你 要 不 要 告诉 他?Nǐ yào bu yào gàosu tā? Are you going to tell him?
  • B:他 知道 Tā zhīdào le.He (already) knows.
  • A:你 应该 问 老师。Nǐ yīnggāi wèn lǎoshī. You should ask the teacher.
  • B:我 问 Wǒ wèn le.I've (already) asked.

See also

Sources and further reading