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.
It might help to understand the literal meaning of the structure. The word 差 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; it almost happened. Just remember: the fact of what really happened is always NOT the verb phrase after 差点(儿).
Note that the "Predicate" part of the structure is usually something bad or something you don't wish for, and that it didn't happen.
Subj. + 差点 + Predicate
You can put 了 at the end of the sentence for emphasis. In this case, 就 is often used and it's optional.
Subj. + 差点 (+就) + Predicate + 了
The predicate part of the pattern can be a verb or an adjective.
- 车 差点 撞到 我 。The car didn't hit me.The car almost hit me.
- 我们 差点 相信 他 。We didn't believe him.We almost believed him.
- 他们 差点 打 起来 。They didn't start fighting.They almost started a fight.
- 我 差点 忘 了 。I didn't forget.I almost forgot.
- 我 今天 差点 迟到 了 。 I wasn't late.I was almost late today.
- 她 差点 疯 了 。She didn't go crazy.She almost went crazy.
- 他 差点 就 死 了 。He didn't die.He almost died.
- 菜 差点 糊 了 。It wasn't burned.The food was almost burned.
- 我们 队 差点 输 了 。The team didn't lose.Our team almost lost.
- 我 差点 就 打 他 了 。I didn't actually do it.I almost hit him.
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."
Sources and further reading
- 现代汉语八百词（增订本） (pp. 112) [ →buy]
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课下册） (pp. 341) [ →buy]
- 现代汉语词典（第5版） (pp. 145) 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 →buy