Using "cai" for small numbers
The character 才 (cái) can be used to emphasize that a number is small, or less than expected.
Used as a Verb
In this case, 才 means "is only" or "only have."
才 + Number + [Measure Word] + Noun
In English, we often express this by using "only" or "just" to emphasize that the number is small.
- 你 才 二十 岁 ？You're only twenty?
- 这 个 班 才 两 个 学生 。 This class only has two students.
- 你 的 工资 才 两 千 ？Probably RMB, per monthYour salary is only two thousand?
- 这 顿 饭 才 二十 块 ，太 便宜 了 ！This meal only cost twenty kuai. It's too cheap!
- 你 才 一百 斤 ，还 要 减肥 ？One "jin" = 500gYou're only 100 jin and you still want to lose some weight?
Used with a Verb
才 + Verb + Number + Measure Word + Noun
In this pattern, adding a 了 after the verb is optional.
- 她 才 来 了 两 个 月 。She's been here for only two months.
- 这 家 店 关门 了 ？可是 它 才 开业 一 个 星期 。This shop is out of business? But it's only been one week since it opened.
- 已经 两 天 了 ，你 才 看完 一 页 ？It's been two days and you only finished reading one page?
- 我们 才 玩 了 一会儿 ，再 玩 一会儿 吧 ？We've only played for a short while. Can we play a little bit longer?
- 他们 结婚 了 ？他们 才 认识 三 个 月 ！They got married? They've only known each other for three months!