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Change of state with "le"

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Also known as: 了2, change-of-state 了, sentence 了 and modal 了.

了 (le) has many uses. You probably first learned 了 (le) as a particle that tells you an action is completed, which is also known as "了1." However, this article is not about that use of 了 (le); instead, it is about indicating a change of state (了2). In other words, there is now a new situation, or there is about to be a new situation. This whole "change of state" idea can take numerous forms, and this page includes some helpful examples.

Structure

When used in this way, 了(le) is placed at the end of the sentence to indicate a new situation.

[New Situation] + 了

Examples

  • 下 雨 It wasn't raining, but now it is.Xià yǔ le.It's raining.
  • 妈妈 老 We aren't used to thinking of her as old, but she is now.Māma lǎo le.Mom is old.
  • 你 胖 You used to not be fat.Nǐ pàng le.You've gotten fat.
  • 家里 没有 牛奶 We had milk before.Jiālǐ méiyǒu niúnǎi le.We don't have any milk at home.
  • 爸爸 今年 50 岁 Seems like just a year ago he was only 49!Bàba jīnnián wǔshí suì le.Dad is 50 years old this year.
  • 手机 没 电 It was working fine until now.Shǒujī méi diàn le.The cell phone ran out of power.
  • 宝宝 会 说话 He couldn't before.Bǎobao huì shuōhuà le.The baby can speak.
  • 你哥哥 有 女朋友 吗?He didn't have one before.Nǐ gēge yǒu nǚpéngyou le ma? Does your older brother have a girlfriend?
  • 我 男朋友 找到 新 工作 A big change for sure.Wǒ nánpéngyou zhǎodào xīn gōngzuò le.My boyfriend found a new job.
  • 你 老婆 怀孕 吗?I know you guys have been trying...Nǐ lǎopo huáiyùn le ma? Is your wife pregnant?

Too General?

The whole "change of state" concept might seem very general, and it is. It's vague, and it also takes some getting used to. You should expect it to take a while to get used to this use of 了 (le).

Because it's a little vague and confusing, most learners find it useful to break this "change of state" 了 (le) down into more specific usages, such as using it to mean "now", "already", or "not anymore". Although these are all "flavors" of the "change of state" 了 (le), identifying them as specific cases can make it much easier to get used to using 了 (le) in this way.

See Also

Sources and further reading

Books

Websites