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Uses of "le"

The Chinese particle 了 has been traditionally divided into two broad categories: aspectual particle 了 (AKA 了1) and modal particle 了 (AKA 了2). However, for a word with as many varied grammatical uses, such broad classifications don't seem particularly helpful to learners. This article offers an alternative way to understand 了: by listing out specific uses and patterns without regard for traditional classifications, starting with the ones learners will want to learn right away, and moving into more and more complicated uses.

Beginner (A1) Uses of 了

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples 了 Type
Expressing "excessively" with "tai" 太 + Adj + 了  ! 了2

Elementary (A2) Uses of 了

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples 了 Type
Expressing completion with "le" Verb + 了 她 去 北京 。 了1
Questions with "le ma" Verb + 了 + 吗 ? 你 吃饭 了 吗 了1
Using "guo" with "le" Verb + 过 + 了 我们 看 过 了 了1
Expressing "already" with just "le" Subj. + Verb + 了 我们 都 知道 了2
Result complement "-wan" for finishing Subj. + Verb + 完 + 了 我 说 完 了2
Expressing change of state with "le" [New Situation] + 了 今天 我 25 岁 了2
Expressing "now" with "le" [New Situation] + 了 电影 开始 了2
Expressing duration Verb + 了 + Duration 他 在 北京 住 了 两 年 了2
Expressing duration (ongoing) Verb + 了 + Duration + 了 他 在 北京 住 了 两 年 了 了2
Expressing "already" with "yijing" 已经 + Verb + 了 已经 了2
Expressing "about to happen" with "le" 快 + Verb / Adj. + 了 下雨 了2
Expressing "not anymore" with "le" (已经 +) 不 / 没(有) + [Verb Phrase] + 了 想 吃 了2
Expressing "stop doing" with "bie… le" 别 + Verb + 了 ,去 写 作业 。 了2
Superlative "zui" 最 + Adj. + 了 四川 菜 了2
Negative adjectives with "-si le" Adj. + 死了 我 今天 累 死了 了2

Intermediate (B1) Uses of 了

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples 了 Type
Making negative adjectives extreme with "-si le" Adj. + 死了 这 件 衣服 难看 死了 了2
Making positive adjectives extreme with "-ji le" Adj. + 极了 你的 中文 好 极了 了2
Expressing "much more" in comparisons Noun 1 + 比 + Noun 2 + Adj. + 多了 你 高 多 了 了2
Expressing duration of inaction (已经 +) Duration + 没 + Verb + 了 他 已经 三 天 没 洗澡 了2
Expressing "about to" with "jiuyao" Subj. + 就要 + Verb + 了 他们 就要 结婚 了2
Expressing "again" in the past with "you" 又 + Verb + 了 迟到 了2
Expressing "already" with "dou" 都 + Time + 了 九点 ,快点 起床 ! 了2
Expressing earliness with "jiu" Subj. + Time + 就 + Verb + 了 我 昨晚 八 点 半 睡觉 了2
Expressing "finally" with "zhongyu" Subj. + 终于 + Predicate + 了 终于 了2
Expressing "more and more" with "yuelaiyue" Subj. + 越来越 + Adj. + 了 天气 越来越 了2
Expressing "all at once" with "yixiazi" Subj. + 一下子 + Predicate + 了 天气 一下子 变 冷 了2

Upper Intermediate (B2) Uses of 了

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples 了 Type
Intensifying adjectives extreme with "ke" 可 + Adj (+ 了) 你 做 的 菜 可 好吃 了 了2
Expressing "A bit too" Adj + 了一点(儿) 这个 东西 的 质量 是 差 了 一点 了2
Sentence-Final "le 1+2" ⋯⋯了 我 明白 你 为什么 走 了1, 2


See also

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