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Time words and word order

Remembering where to put the time words, such as "yesterday," "tomorrow," "this week," etc. in a sentence is really important in order to speak Chinese correctly. In Chinese you get two equally correct choices.

Structure

Time words can appear in one of two positions in the sentence in Chinese: either at the beginning of the sentence (before the subject), or directly after the subject. The structures are:

Time + Subj. + Verb + Obj.

Subj. + Time + Verb + Obj.

So if you start speaking with "time first" English word order, you can carry on and get away with it. If, however, you're saving the time word for the end of the sentence, you can be pretty sure that it doesn't sound at all natural to your Chinese audience.

Examples

  • 昨天 去 了 酒吧 。 Zuótiān qù le jiǔbā.Yesterday I went to the bar.
  • 昨天 去 了 酒吧 。 zuótiān qù le jiǔbā.I went to the bar yesterday.
  • 下 个 星期 要 回 国 。 Xià gè xīngqī yào huí guó.Next week he is going back to his country.
  • 下 个 星期 要 回 国 。 xià gè xīngqī yào huí guó.He is going back to his country next week.
  • 明年 要 开 一 个 公司 。 Míngnián yào kāi yī gè gōngsī.Next year I want to open a company.
  • 明年 要 开 一 个 公司 。 míngnián yào kāi yī gè gōngsī.I want to open a company next year.
  • 下 个 月 我们 结婚 吧 ? Xià gè yuè wǒmen jiéhūn ba?Next month shall we get married?
  • 我们 下 个 月 结婚 吧 ? Wǒmen xià gè yuè jiéhūn ba?Shall we get married next month?
  • 现在 能 来 我 办公室 吗 ? Xiànzài néng lái wǒ bàngōngshì ma?Now you can come to my office?
  • 现在 能 来 我 办公室 吗 ? xiànzài néng lái wǒ bàngōngshì ma?Can you come to my office now?

See also

Sources and further reading

Books