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Expressing "about to happen" with "le"

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Remember that 了 (le) is not only for the past! When something is about to happen, you can also indicate this using 了 (le). Normally it is paired with a 快 (kuài), 快要(kuàiyào) or a 要 (yào). This is a special form of using 了 to indicate a change of situation.

快⋯⋯了 (kuài... le) with Verbs

When using 快 ⋯⋯了 (kuài... le) with verbs, it takes on a meaning similar to the English "just about to." Normally you can add 要 (yào) before the verb.

Structure

快+ Verb + 了

快要 + Verb + 了

Examples

  • 我们 Wǒmen kuài dào le.We're almost there.
  • 下雨 Kuài xiàyǔ le.It's going to rain soon.
  • 快 要 过年 ,你 什么 时候 回家?Kuài yào guònián le, nǐ shénme shíhou huíjiā? It's almost Chinese New Year. When are you going back to your hometown?
  • 我 女朋友 快 要 过 生日 Wǒ nǚpéngyou kuài yào guò shēngrì le.My girlfriend is about to have her birthday.
  • 下车 ,你 再 等 一会儿 。Kuài xiàchē le, nǐ zài děng yīhuìr.We're about to get off. Just wait a little while.

Notice that for some translations, it's more natural to use the English word "almost" instead of "soon."

快⋯⋯了 (kuài... le) with Adjectives

In this structure, 快⋯⋯了 (kuài... le) is closer to the meaning of "almost" in English.

Structure

快 + Adj. + 了

Examples

  • Tiān kuài hēi le.It’s almost getting dark.
  • kuài hǎo le.I'm almost ready.
  • Fàn kuài liáng le.The food is about to be cold.
  • 这些 脏 衣服 Zhèxiē zāng yīfu kuài chòu le.These dirty clothes are about to smell bad.
  • 不 能 再 喝 了,我 Bù néng zài hē le, wǒ kuài zuì le.I can't drink another, I am almost drunk.

要⋯⋯了 (yào... le) with Verbs

Structure

You can also just use 要 (yào) before the verb, without 快 (kuài).

Subj. + 要 + Verb / Adj. + 了

Note that occasionally you'll see adjectives (instead of verbs) in this pattern as well.

Examples

  • 生气 yào shēngqì le!I'm going to get angry!
  • 他们 的 孩子 出生 Tāmen de háizi yào chūshēng le.Their child is about to be born.
  • 9 点 了,超市 关门 Jiǔ diǎn le, chāoshì yào guānmén le.It's 9 o'clock. The supermarket is about to close.
  • 我 最好 的 朋友 结婚 Wǒ zuìhǎo de péngyou yào jiéhūn le!My best friend is about to get married!
  • 圣诞节 ,你 有 什么 打算 ?Shèngdànjié yào dào le, nǐ yǒu shénme dǎsuàn?It's almost Christmas. What plans do you have?

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

Websites