Expressing "already" with "dou"
都⋯⋯了 (dōu... le) is a pattern used to express that something has already happened, similar to 已经 (yǐjīng)⋯⋯了. However, 都⋯⋯了 is used more emphatically, implying that the speaker holds some sort of attitude in relation to the event and is not merely objectively stating the facts, as with 已经⋯⋯了. The two options can actually also be combined in the pattern 都已经⋯⋯了. Here the meaning is the same as 都⋯⋯了.
Used Before a Time
When 都⋯⋯了 (dōu... le) is used at the beginning of a sentence, it will usually be followed with 还 (hái) or 还在 (hái zài). This implies that the other party should stop some kind of action.
都 + Time + 了
- 都 九点 了 ，快点 起床 ！It's already nine o'clock. Get out of bed!
- 都 十二 点 了 ，你 还 不 睡 ？It's already 12 o'clock. Aren't you going to bed?
- 都 二十一 世纪 了 ，你 还 这么 想 ？It's already the 21st century and you still think this way?
- 都 一 个 小时 了 ，他 还 在 厕所 里 。It's already been an hour, and he's still in the bathroom.
- 都 一 个 星期 了 ，还在 下雨 。It's been a week and it's still raining.
Used Before the Predicate
Subj. + 都 + Predicate + 了
The predicate part of the pattern can be a verb or an adjective.
- 饭 都 凉 了 ，快 吃 吧 。The food is cold already. Let's eat.
- 牛奶 都 坏 了 ，扔掉 吧 。The milk's gone bad. Throw it out.
- 我 都 说 了 三 遍 了 。别 烦 我 ！I've said it three times already. Leave me alone!
- 这个 电影 你 都 看 过 了 ，看 别的 吧 。You've seen this movie already. Let's watch something else.
- 他 都 道歉 了 ，你 别 生气 了。He already apologized. Stop being so mad at him.
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 2 (pp. 116) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- Chinese Grammar - Broken down into 100 items - Basic and Intermediate Levels (汉语语法百项讲练 - 初中级) (pp. 97-99) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- 现代汉语八百词（增订本） (pp. 178) [ →buy]