Change of state with "le"
- 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.
When used in this way, 了(le) is placed at the end of the sentence to show that the whole statement describes a new situation.
[New Situation] + 了
- 下 雨 了。It wasn't raining, but now it isIt's raining.
- 妈妈 老 了。We aren't used to thinking of her as old, but she is nowMom is old.
- 你 胖 了。You used to not be fatYou've gotten fat.
- 家里 没有 牛奶 了。We had milk beforeWe don't have any milk at home.
- 爸爸 今年 50 岁 了。 Seems like just a year ago he was only 49!Dad is 50 years old this year.
- 手机 没 电 了。It was working fine until nowThe cell phone ran out of power.
- 宝宝 会 说话 了。He couldn't beforeThe baby can speak.
- 你哥哥 有 女朋友 了 吗？He didn't have one beforeDoes your older brother have a girlfriend?
- 我 男朋友 找到 新 工作 了。The lazy bum is finally doing something with himselfMy boyfriend found a new job.
- 你 老婆 怀孕 了 吗？I haven't heard that she's pregnant, but...Is your wife pregnant?
The whole "change of state" concept might seem very general, and it is. That's why it's useful to break this use of 了 (le) down into more specific usages, such as using it to mean "now", "already", or "not anymore".
- Expressing "now" with "le"
- Expressing "already" with "le"
- Expressing "not anymore" with "le"
- Uses of "le"
Sources and further reading
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (p. 68) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 126-9) →buy
- Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (pp. 238-99) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 217-8) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 64-5) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (p. 8) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (p. 239)→buy
- Chinesegrammar.info: Chinese le grammar summary (了)