Expressing experiences with "guo"
The aspect particle 过 (guo) is used to indicate that an action has been experienced in the past.
Subj. + Verb + 过 + Obj.
What this expresses is that the verb has been done at least once before, without specifying a particular time. 过 (guo) is used to talk about whether something has ever happened - whether it has been experienced.
In English, if you're asking a question and really trying to figure out if someone has ever done something before, we tend to use the words "ever" and "before." In Chinese, 过 (guo) alone expresses this, without the need for additional words.
- 你 学 过 中文 吗？ Have you ever studied Chinese?
- 你 见 过 那 个 人 吗？ Have you seen that person before?
- 我们 来 过 这 个 地方。We've been to this place before.
- 我 也 吃 过 日本菜。 I've also eaten Japanese food before.
- 你 看 过 这 个 电影 吗 ？ Have you seen this movie?
Negating a 过 (guo) Sentence
Because 过 (guo) is used to talk about past actions, it should be negated with 没 (méi).
Subj. + 没 + Verb + 过 + Obj.
Note that when you translate these examples into English, "have never" [done something] is often more natural, indicating that someone lacks the experience of having done something, rather than just "have not" [done something].
- 我 没 想 过 这 个 问题。 I've never thought about this question before.
- 我 没 学 过 这 个 词 。 I have never studied this word before.
- 妈妈 没 买 过 很 贵 的 衣服。 Mom has never bought any expensive clothes before.
- 我们 都 没 坐 过 飞机。 None of us has ever been on a airplane before.
- 你们 没 见 过 美女 吗？Have you never seen beautiful girls before?
To emphasize "never" even more, you can also use the word 从来 (cónglái).
Using 过 (guo) with 了 (le)
You'll sometimes see 过 (guo) used together with 了 (le). This can be a little confusing, as it doesn't seem to be following the rules laid out above. For more on this special usage of 过 (guo), see the article on using 过 (guo) with 了 (le).
Sources and further reading
- A Practical Chinese Grammar For Foreigners (外国人实用汉语语法) (pp. 138) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 59-60) →buy
- Chinese Grammar Without Tears (简明汉语语法学习手册) (pp. 73-4) [ →buy]
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 83- 4) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 1 (pp. 345-7) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 2 (pp. 49-51) →buy
- Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide (pp. 76-7, 230-2) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 175-6) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (pp. 188) →buy
- ChinesePod: Qing Wen - 过(guo) (free podcast content)