Expressing earliness with "jiu"
Just as 才 (cái) can express lateness, 就 (jiù) can be used to indicate that something happened earlier than expected.
The pattern is as follows:
Subj. + Time + 就 + Verb + Obj.
In English this might be expressed with "as early as", but usually it's not specifically marked.
- 我 昨晚 八 点 半 就 睡觉 了！I went to bed at half past eight last night.
- 我们 早上 九点 上课，可是 他 八点 就 来 了。We have class at nine in the morning, but he came at eight.
- 爷爷 每天 五点 就 起床 了。Grandpa gets up at five o'clock every day.
- 她 十八 岁 就 大学 毕业 了。She graduated from college when she was only 18 years old.
- 我 奶奶 五十 多 岁 就 去世 了。 Grandma passed away in her fifties.
From the example sentences it is clear that 了 naturally occurs with a verb used after 就. This is because verbs following 就 generally have the feeling of being completed.
- Comparing "cai" and "jiu"
- Events in quick succession with "yi... jiu"
- Expressing indifference with "jiu"
- Limiting scope with "jiu"
- "If…, then…" with "ruguo…, jiu…"
Sources and further reading
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (pp. 181-2) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 102-3) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (p. 239)→buy
- East Asia Student: 就 and 才 in Mandarin: as early as, not until