Expressing "already" with just "le"
You understand the word 已经 (yǐjīng) to mean "already" in Chinese, and it is followed with a 了 (le). However, sometimes, that feeling of "already" can also be expressed with 了 (le) alone if it is used in response to a preceding question or statement.
[Verb Phrase] + 了
When "already" is implied using this structure, it is usually (if not always) in response to a preceding question or statement. Therefore, the following examples are in dialogue format.
- A: 老板 呢？Where is the boss?
- B:他 走 了。He (already) left.
- A: 孩子 还在 上 大学 吗？Are your kids still in college?
- B:他们 工作 了。This expression emphasizes that they're not students anymore, and have already entered the workforce.They (already) work.
- A: 用 我 的 车 吧？How about using my car?
- B:谢谢，我们 有 车 了。Thanks. We (already) have a car.
- A:你 要 不 要 告诉 他？Are you going to tell him?
- B:他 知道 了。He (already) knows.
- A:你 应该 问 老师。You should ask the teacher.
- B:我 问 了。I (already) asked.
Sources and further reading
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (p. 68) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 126-9) →buy
- Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (pp. 238-99) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 217-8) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 64-5) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (p. 8) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (p. 239)→buy
- Chinesegrammar.info: Chinese le grammar summary (了)