Expressing "once" with "cengjing"

曾经 (céngjīng) is an adverb, and as such comes before verb phrases in a sentence. It adds the sense of "once" having happened (not the "one time" meaning of "once"), sometimes translated as "ever." It frequently pairs with 过.

Used with 过

When used with action verbs, 曾经 comes before the verb, and that same verb is followed by 过. For psychological verbs, the 过 is optional.

Structure

Subj. + 曾经 + Verb + 过 (+ Obj.)

Examples

  • 我们 曾经 一起 去 Wǒmen céngjīng yīqǐ qù guò.We've once been there together.
  • 他 说 他 曾经 很多 傻事 。Tā shuō tā céngjīng zuò guò hěnduō shǎ shì.He said that he once did a lot of stupid things.
  • 曾经 喜欢 你 。céngjīng xǐhuān guò nǐ.I once liked you.
  • 曾经 当 演员 ,后来 成 了 全职太太 。céngjīng xiǎng dāng yǎnyuán, hòulái chéngle quánzhí tàitài.She once wanted to become an actress. She became a full time wife afterwards.

Sometimes 曾经 is used with 了 rather than 过.

  • 为了 找 亲生 父母 ,她 曾经 很多钱 。Wèile zhǎo qīnshēng fùmǔ, tā céngjīng huā le hěnduō qián.In order to find her biological parents, she once spent lots of money.

曾经 can also be used with some adjectives. In these cases, 过 is usually also used.

  • 我们 都 曾经 年轻 Wǒmen dōu céngjīng niánqīng guò.We were all young once.
  • 他 的 音乐 曾经 流行 Tā de yīnyuè céngjīng liúxíng guò.His music was once popular.

Used without 过

When used with the verbs , , and (all related to existence rather than actions), 过 is generally not used.

Structure

曾经 + 是 / 在 / 有 ⋯⋯

Examples

  • 曾经 with 是
  • 曾经 我 老板 。céngjīng shì wǒ lǎobǎn.He was once my boss.
  • 这里 曾经 一个 学校 。Zhèlǐ céngjīng shì yīgè xuéxiào.It was once a school here.
  • 曾经 with 在
  • 市政府 曾经 我们 家 旁边 。Shì zhèngfǔ céngjīng zài wǒmen jiā pángbiān.The city government was next to our house.
  • 他 的 墓 曾经 国外 。Tā de mù céngjīng zài guówài.His tomb was once abroad.
  • 曾经 with 有
  • 曾经 一个 西班牙 男朋友 。céngjīng yǒu yīgè Xībānyá nán péngyou.She once had a Spanish boyfriend.
  • 他们 家 曾经 很多钱 。Tāmen jiā céngjīng yǒu hěnduō qián.Their family once has lots of money.

Negative Form

Because is used to talk about past actions, it should be negated with (méi). When you mean to say "I haven't ever (done something)" or "(something) hasn't happened ever," just say 没⋯⋯过. It is incorrect to use 没 or 不 to negate 曾经.

Try not to say:

  • 我们 不 曾经 架 。We've never fought.
  • 他们 一直 写信 ,没 曾经 面 。They've been writing to each other, but they've never met.

不曾 (bùcéng) and 未曾 (wèicéng), however, can also be used to express the above meaning, but they're more formal and thus used only in written language.

不曾/ 未曾 + Verb + 过 + Obj.

A few examples:

  • 他们 一直 写信 ,不曾 面 。Tāmen yīzhí xiě xìn, bùcéng jiàn guò miàn.They've been writing to each other, but they've never met.
  • 他 从小 就 没有 父母 ,未曾 感受 家庭 的 温暖 。Tā cóngxiǎo jiù méiyǒu fùmǔ, wèicéng gǎnshòu guò jiātíng de wēnnuǎn.He's lost his parents since his childhood. He's never experienced the warmth of a family.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books

HSK5