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Expressing duration of inaction

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Saying how long you have done something is pretty simple in Chinese. Saying how long you have not done something is just as easy.

Structure

Expressing how long something has not been done is slightly different to expressing the Expressing ongoing duration with double "le".

Subj. + 已经 + Duration + 没 + Verb + 了

So now the duration comes right after the subject and 了 is at the end of the sentence. The verb has to be negated with 没, as the action hasn't happened.

Note that 已经 can be omitted.

Examples

  • 他们 已经 两 天 吃 东西 Tāmen yǐjīng liǎng tiān méi chī dōngxi le.They have gone two days without eating anything.
  • 我们 已经 十 年 Wǒmen yǐjīng shí nián méi jiàn le.It's been ten years since we last met.
  • 已经 一 个 星期 洗澡 yǐjīng yī gè xīngqī méi xǐzǎo le.He has already gone a whole week without showering.
  • 你 多长时间 刮胡子 Nǐ duō cháng shíjiān méi guā húzi le?How long has it been since you last shaved?
  • 她 半 个 月 出门 Tā bàn gè yuè méi chūmén le.It's been half a month since she last left the house.
  • 你们 多久 回家 Nǐmen duōjiǔ méi huíjiā le?How long has it been since you returned home?
  • 你 多久 休假 Nǐ duōjiǔ méi xiūjià le?How long has it been since your last vacation?
  • 买 吧 ,你 已经 一 年 多 买 新 衣服 Mǎi ba, nǐ yǐjīng yī nián duō méi mǎi xīn yīfu le.Just buy it. It's been more than one year since you last bought new clothes.
  • 你 好像 很久 这么 开心 Nǐ hǎoxiàng hěnjiǔ méi zhème kāixīn le.It seems like it's been a long time since you were this happy.

In English, we may say something like "I haven't eaten since 9:00 this morning" or "I haven't been to China since the year 2000." Note that the Chinese do not tend to say somebody hasn't done something since a certain point in time. Instead, you should either express it as a duration of time that one hasn't done something (as in the above examples), or you can say "the last time somebody did something was [a certain point in time]."

  • 我 已经 二十 年 来 中国 Wǒ yǐjīng èrshí nián méi lái Zhōngguó le.It's been 20 years since I came to China last time.
  • 上次 来 中国 二十 年 前 。shàngcì lái Zhōngguó shì èrshí nián qián.The last time I came to China was over ten years ago. (Same meaning as "I haven't been to China since 20 years ago.")

See also

Sources and further reading

Books