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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

Structure

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

Examples

  • 九点 ,快点 起床 !Dōu jiǔ diǎn le, kuài diǎn qǐchuáng!It's already nine o'clock. Get out of bed!
  • 十二 点 ,你 不 睡 ?Dōu shí'èr diǎn le, nǐ hái bù shuì?It's already 12 o'clock. Aren't you going to bed?
  • 二十一 世纪 ,你 这么 想 ?Dōu èrshí-yī shìjì le, nǐ hái zhème xiǎng?It's already the 21st century and you still think this way?
  • 一 个 小时 ,他 在 厕所 里 。Dōu yī gè xiǎoshí le, tā hái zài cèsuǒ lǐ.It's already been an hour, and he's still in the bathroom.
  • 一 个 星期 还在 下雨 。Dōu yī gè xīngqī le, hái zài xiàyǔ.It's been a week and it's still raining.

Used Before the Predicate

Structure

Subj. + 都 + Predicate + 了

The predicate part of the pattern can be a verb or an adjective.

Examples

  • ,快 吃 吧 。Fàn dōu liáng le, kuài chī ba.The food is cold already. Let's eat.
  • 牛奶 ,扔掉 吧 。Niúnǎi dōu huài le, rēngdiào ba.The milk's gone bad. Throw it out.
  • 说 了 三 遍 。别 烦 我 !dōu shuō le sān biàn le. Bié fán wǒ!I've said it three times already. Leave me alone!
  • 这个 电影 你 看 过 ,看 别的 吧 。Zhège diànyǐng nǐ dōu kàn guo le, kàn biéde ba.You've seen this movie already. Let's watch something else.
  • 道歉 ,你 别 生气 了。dōu dàoqiàn le, nǐ bié shēngqì le.He already apologized. Stop being so mad at him.

Sources and further reading

Books

Dictionaries