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Expressing "almost" using "chadian"

To say that something bad almost happened (but didn't), you can add the word 差点 (chàdiǎn) before the verb. You will also hear 差点儿 (chàdiǎnr) in northern China. There is no difference in meaning between 差点 and 差点儿.

Literal Meaning

It might help to understand the literal meaning of the structure. The word 差 (chà) has a lot of meanings. In this case, it means "to lack," or "to be short." So in Chinese, the way to say "almost" is to say, "lacking that little bit." If that "little bit" hadn't been lacking, it would have happened. But it was lacking, so it didn't happen。Technically, it almost happened. Just remember: The fact is always opposite with the verb phrase after "差点(儿)," whether the verb phrase contains "没" or not.

Pattern without 了

Note that the "Verb Phrase" part of the structure is usually something bad or something you don't wish for, and that it didn't happen.

Structure

Subj. + 差点(儿) + [Verb Phrase]

Examples

  • 我 今天 差点儿 迟到 。 I wasn't latechàdiǎnr chídào.I was almost late.
  • 他们 差点 打 起来 。They didn't start a fight.Tāmen chàdiǎn dǎ qǐlái.They almost started a fight.
  • 差点 笑 出来。I didn't laugh.chàdiǎn xiào chūlái.I almost laughed.
  • 差点 撞到 我 。The car didn't hit me.Chē chàdiǎn zhuàngdào wǒ.The car almost hit me.
  • 手机 差点 掉进 水 里 。 The cell phone didn't fall into the waterShǒujī chàdiǎn diào jìn shuǐ. lǐ.The cell phone nearly fell into the water.

Pattern with 了

You can put 就 after 差点(儿) when 了 is used 了. In this case, 就 can be omitted. 了 comes right before the object if an object is included in the verb phrase.

Structure

Subj. + 差点(儿) + (就) + [Verb Phrase] / Adj. + 了

Examples

  • 差点 忘 了 今天 要 开会 。 I didn't forget.chàdiǎn wàng le .I almost forgot we need to have a meeting today.
  • 我们 差点儿 错过 了 最后 一 班 地铁。 We didn't miss it.Wǒmen chàdiǎnr cuòguò le zuìhòu yī bān dìtiě.We almost missed the last metro.
  • 差点 糊 了。 It wasn't burned.Cài chàdiǎn jiù hú le. almost .
  • 我们 队 差点儿 输 了。 the team didn't loseWǒmen duì chàdiǎnr jiù shū le.Our team almost lost.
  • 这个 东西 差点 丢 了 。 I did't lost it.Zhège dōngxi chàdiǎn jiù diū le.I almost lost the thing.

Using 差点 with 没

This can get confusing, even though it's really the same pattern (and same logic) with a little added complexity. This pattern goes beyond the difficulty level of the needs of the B1 learner, so to learn more about this usage, see expressing "almost" using "chadian mei".

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

Dictionaries