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Expressing "less than" with "budao"

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The word 到 (dào) means "arrive," but it can also mean "to reach" or "to get to" in an abstract sense. So in this pattern, 不到 (bùdào) means "to not reach (the amount of)," or, to put it another way, "to be less than."

Basic Pattern

Structure

Subj. + 不到 + Number + [Measure Word] + Noun

Examples

  • 我 女儿 不到 三 岁 。Wǒ nǚ'ér bùdào sān suì.My daughter is not yet three years old.
  • 我 昨天 睡 了 不到 五 个 小时 。Wǒ zuótiān shuì le bùdào wǔ gè xiǎoshí. Yesterday I slept for almost five hours.
  • 这 件 衣服 花 了 不到 一 百 块 。Zhè jiàn yīfu huā le bùdào yī bǎi kuài.This piece of clothing costs less than 100 RMB.
  • 我 家 到 公司 不到 五 百 米 。Wǒ jiā dào gōngsī bùdào wǔ bǎi mǐ.My house is less than 500 meters from the company.
  • 在 美国 ,不到 21 岁 不 能 喝酒 。Zài Měiguó, bùdào èrshí-yī suì, bù néng hējiǔ.In the US, people under 21 can't drink alcohol.

Advanced Pattern

Structure

When 不到 (bùdào) is put before a time or a duration of time, it needs to be followed with 就 (jiù). This shows that something (usually referring to the past) has happened earlier than expected.

Subj. + 不到 + Time + 就 + Predicate + 了

Examples

  • 她 的 病 不到 一个 星期 Tā de bìng bùdào yī gè xīngqī jiù hǎo le.Her sickness got better in less than a week.
  • 他们 认识 不到 两 个 月 结婚 Tāmen rènshi bùdào liǎng gè yuè jiù jiéhūn le.After knowing each other for less than two months they got married.
  • 李 医生 不到 55 岁 退休 Lǐ yīshēng bùdào wǔshí-wǔ suì jiù tuìxiū le.Dr. Li retired at under the age of 55.
  • 爷爷 不到 60 岁 去世 Yéye bùdào liùshí suì jiù qùshì le.My grandpa was less than 60 years old when he died.
  • 老板 不到 30 岁 有 白 头发 Lǎobǎn bùdào sānshí suì jiù yǒu bái tóufa le.My boss is less than 30 years old and already has some gray hair.

For other similar uses of 就, see also expressing earliness with "jiu."

See also

Sources and further reading

Books