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.
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.
- 昨天 我 去 了 酒吧 。 Yesterday I went to the bar.
- 我 昨天 去 了 酒吧 。 I went to the bar yesterday.
- 下 个 星期 他 要 回 国 。 Next week he is going back to his country.
- 他 下 个 星期 要 回 国 。 He is going back to his country next week.
- 明年 我 要 开 一 个 公司 。 Next year I want to open a company.
- 我 明年 要 开 一 个 公司 。 I want to open a company next year.
- 下 个 月 我们 结婚 吧 ？ Next month shall we get married?
- 我们 下 个 月 结婚 吧 ？ Shall we get married next month?
- 现在 你 能 来 我 办公室 吗 ？ Now you can come to my office?
- 你 现在 能 来 我 办公室 吗 ？ Can you come to my office now?
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 1 (pp. 84) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 75-7) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (pp. 205-6) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (pp. 98) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy