Expressing completion with "le"
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- Also known as: verb 了, completed action 了 and perfective aspect 了.
The particle 了 (le) has a lot of uses. One of the most common is to express the completion of an action. This is called aspect, which is not the same as tense. Tense is about when an action happens - past, present or future. Aspect is about whether the action is complete in whatever time frame we're talking about.
To indicate completeness with 了, the structure is:
Subject + Verb + 了 + Object
Notice that 了 goes directly after the verb. This 了 is called verb 了.
- 上 个 星期五 我 喝 了 五 瓶 啤酒。
- 到 了 红绿灯 以后，往 左 拐。
- 明天 我 吃 了 晚饭 以后 就 跟 朋友 去 咖啡店。
As you can see, 了 can appear in sentences about the past present or future. What's important is whether or not the action has been completed whatever time we're talking about. This means that verb 了 can't be used with habitual or continuous actions.
Sources and further reading
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (pp. 65 - 68) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (pp. 137 - 139) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 1 (pp. 11 - 14) →buy
- Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (pp. 185 - 217) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 1 (新实用汉语课本1) (pp. 199 - 200) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 1 (新实用汉语课本1)(2nd ed) (pp. 226 - 228) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 16 - 18) →buy