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Expressing duration of inaction

Saying how long you have not done something is not difficult, but the word order is different from the regular pattern for expressing duration. If there's a consistent keyword in this pattern, it's going to be (méi), since it almost always plays a role.

Structure

Remember, this pattern differs from both simple pattern for expressing duration and the pattern for ongoing duration.

Subj. + (已经 +) Duration + 没 + Verb + 了

So now the duration comes right after the subject and 了 is at the end of the sentence. The verb has to be negated with 没, as the action hasn't happened.

Note that 已经 can be omitted.

Examples

  • 他们 已经 两 天 吃 东西 Tāmen yǐjīng liǎng tiān méi chī dōngxi le.They haven't eating anything for two days already.
  • 我们 已经 十 年 Wǒmen yǐjīng shí nián méi jiàn le.We haven't seen each other for ten years already.
  • 已经 一 个 星期 洗澡 yǐjīng yī gè xīngqī méi xǐzǎo le.He has already gone a whole week without showering.
  • 你 多 长 时间 刮 胡子 Nǐ duō cháng shíjiān méi guā húzi le?How long has it been since you last shaved?
  • 她 半 个 月 出门 Tā bàn gè yuè méi chūmén le.It's been half a month since she's left the house.
  • 你们 多久 回家 Nǐmen duōjiǔ méi huíjiā le?How long has it been since you returned home?
  • 你 多久 休假 Nǐ duōjiǔ méi xiūjià le?How long has it been since your last vacation?
  • 买 吧 ,你 已经 一 年 多 买 新 衣服 Mǎi ba, nǐ yǐjīng yī nián duō méi mǎi xīn yīfu le.Just buy it. It's been more than one year since you last bought new clothes.
  • 你 好像 很久 这么 开心 Nǐ hǎoxiàng hěnjiǔ méi zhème kāixīn le.It seems like it's been a long time since you were this happy.

In English, we may say something like, "I haven't eaten since 9:00 this morning" or "I haven't been to China since the year 2000." Note that the Chinese do not tend to say somebody hasn't done something since a certain point in time. Instead, you should either express it as a duration of time that one hasn't done something (as in the above examples), or you can say "the last time somebody did something was [a certain point in time]."

  • 我 已经 十 年 来 中国 Wǒ yǐjīng shí nián méi lái Zhōngguó le.It's been 10 years since I came to China last.
  • 上次 来 中国 2010 年 。shàngcì lái Zhōngguó shì èr-líng-yī-líng nián.The last time I came to China was 2010.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books