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Expressing "before" in general with "yiqian"

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To talk about things that previously occurred, you can use the word 以前 (yǐqián). You can use this structure to talk about actions that happened at some unspecified time in the past.

Structure

One way to use 以前 (yǐqián) is to start the sentence with it. This is like starting off a sentence in English with "before..." or "in the past..."

以前 + Subj. + Verb + Obj.

You can also move 以前 (yǐqián) to right after the subject, and it's also correct.

Subj. + 以前 + Verb + Obj.

Examples

  • 以前 我 不 会 说 中文 。 Yǐqián wǒ bù huì shuō Zhōngwén.Before, I could not speak Chinese.
  • 以前 住 在 哪儿? yǐqián zhù zài nǎr?Before, where did you live?
  • 以前 我 不 认识 他。 Yǐqián wǒ bù rènshi tā.Before, I didn't know him.
  • 以前 他 是 我们 的 客户 吗? Yǐqián tā shì wǒmen de kèhù ma? Was he our client before?
  • 以前 他 是 一 个 服务员,现在 是 老板。Yǐqián tā shì yī gè fúwùyuán, xiànzài shì lǎobǎn.Before, he was a waiter. Now, he is a boss.
  • 我 父母 以前 都 是 老师。Wǒ fùmǔ yǐqián dōu shì lǎoshī.Before, both of my parents were teachers.
  • 爸爸 以前 很 喜欢 抽烟。Bàba yǐqián hěn xǐhuan chōuyān.Before, dad really liked smoking.
  • 姐姐 以前 有 一 个 很有钱 的 男朋友。Jiějie yǐqián yǒu yī gè hěn yǒuqián de nánpéngyou.My older sister had a very rich boyfriend before.
  • 他们 以前 没有 钱,可是 很 快乐。Tāmen yǐqián méiyǒu qián, kěshì hěn kuàilè.They didn't have much money before, but they were happy.
  • 我男朋友 以前 在 美国 工作,现在 在 中国 工作。Wǒ nánpéngyou yǐqián zài Měiguó gōngzuò, xiànzài zài Zhōngguó gōngzuò.Before, my boyfriend worked in the USA. Now, he works in China.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books