Please give grammar help!!!

July 22, 2009, 03:27 AM posted in General Discussion

What is this about? 

I sometimes lack confidence in my grammar when trying to translate English tenses into Chinese.  I hope to somewhat clear up this problem here.  I am aware that it is probably futile to make solid rules for translating English tenses into Chinese.  Well, I’m not looking for rules.  I’m looking for rules of thumbs.  If you feel you know something about grammar, help a pathetic laowai out and look at my simple examples below.   

Regarding my examples, I’m especially curious about the following:

·         Are my translations grammatically correct?

·         Do my translations convey the original English meaning?

·         Are my translations relatively natural (or at least not unbearably awkward)?

·         Do you know an easier way?

Thanks to anyone who can help me out. 

Present Tense

I read books.


Present Continuous Tense

I am reading a book.


I am reading a book tomorrow.

我明天会看着书。(I’m really suspicious of using in this sentence)

Present Perfect Tense

I have read that book.

我看过那本书。(Is it okay to add and say 我看过了那本书?)

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

I have been reading that book.


Past Tense

I read that book.


Past Continuous Tense

I was reading that book.


Past Perfect Tense

I had read that book.


Past Perfect Continuous Tense

I had been reading that book.


Future Tense

I will read that book.


Future Continuous Tense

I will be reading a book.

我会看着书。(Again, I’m not so sure about the in this sentence.)

Future Perfect Tense

I will have finished reading that book by 10 pm.


Future Perfect Continuous Tense

I will have been reading that book for 2 weeks.

到那个时候我已经看了那本书两个星期。(Should there be a at the end of this sentence?)


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July 22, 2009, 03:30 AM

Chinesepod help!

I have no idea why there is all that html garbage in the first part.  Can someone go in and delete that html code?  leave the rest.  Thanks.

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July 23, 2009, 12:49 AM

Hi rjberki

Thanks for the article. I'm afraid that scientists are always happy to discourage adults from learning a new language, hehe. As a Japanese, I feel very honored to see the "R and L" pronunciation problem of Japanese people in the article, which seems to be a well-known example, thankfully. I'm willing to admit that's a fact, and furthermore Japanese people are very bad at distinguishing "n" from "ng". In my case, the "n/ng" problem is more serious than "L/R" one.

Hi zhenlijiang

I have a feeling the conclusive word is going to come from an English-native expert of Mandarin.

You might be right. So I just hope that our Chinesepod teacher team, which consists of both English and Chinese native speakers, will give us answers soon. This is one of the best threads I ever seen here in Chinesepod forum.

Guys, don't miss it!

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July 22, 2009, 05:31 AM

Hi xiaophil, let me help you explain the question of "没" and "了" combining.

Sub+a certain period of time+没+Verb 了

means up to now, it has been a certain period of time you havn't done something.

For example,

我 两天 没 睡觉 了。

It has been two days since last time I slept.

I havn't slept for two days.

我两年没看见xiaophil 了。

It has been two years since I saw xiaophil last time.

I havn't seen xiaophil  for two years.

Remember, the basic use of 了 is to declare or report a news that something has been completed.

In this case, 了 shows "two years" has been completed, it has been two years.

Hopefully it will be helpful.

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July 22, 2009, 05:41 AM


Some of them need "了" and some of them don't, try to speak them in Chinese:

1 Last month he didn’t work for a week.

2 He hasn’t been to the company for a week till now.

3 He hadn’t had meal for more than 2 days when he was in the mountain.

4 We haven’t had a meal for 2 days since we came here.

5 It has been five years since I last saw him.

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July 22, 2009, 07:05 AM

@xiaophil, no worries! It's a great post! I updated it, it's now OK!

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July 22, 2009, 07:05 AM

Hi diwaien


1. 我上个月一个星期也没上班.

2. 他一个星期没来公司上班了.

3. 他在山上的时候,两天以上没吃饭.

4. 我们两天以前以来在这里一顿也没吃了.

5. 我五年没看见他了.


I have a feeling there are many mistakes.

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July 22, 2009, 07:36 AM

phil,你中文不错,知道不少:) 加油啊!

1. 我上个月一个星期也没上班. (一个星期也没means didn’t go to work even a week



2. 他一个星期没来公司上班了.(写得好!)


3. 他在山上的时候,两天以上没吃饭.remember the use of 多)



4. 我们两天以前以来在这里一顿也没吃了.(不说“来在这里”,可以说“来到这里”,或者“来这儿”;and pay attention to the standard structure Topic + a certain period of time + + Verb



5. 我五年没看见他了.(嗯,对!)


很不错!记住,中文是topic + description的语言,这个能帮助你更有感觉,如果还有问题,请问。

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July 22, 2009, 09:27 AM


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July 22, 2009, 10:18 AM

Wow, great exercise

Xiaophil - you did better than I.

diwaien - Your meaning was perfectly clear, and the sentences near perfect, but in the spirit of two way learning I offer the following changes in your english sentences (I got the easy job): 


2 "He hasn’t been to the company for a week till now".

(you dont need the "till" - using until implies he has showed up now but was missing the entire previous week. Without the until it means he has been missing for a week, and is still missing.)

He hasn’t been to the company for a week now.

3 "He hadn’t had meal for more than 2 days when he was in the mountain."

"on" the mountain is correct, dont forget the "a"

He hadn't had a meal for more than two days while on the mountain.

or to avoid the "hadnt had" we more likely would say

He hadn't eaten for more than two days while on the mountain.

Great stuff, language is such a complex and subtle thing. It is depressing to note that I will never learn a second language nearly as good as the first. Here is an interesting article that touches on why:


oh, and diwaien, thanks so much for helping.

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July 22, 2009, 12:19 PM




That article is very interesting, and yes, a little depressing because I would like to think someday Mandarin will flow off my tongue as easily as English.  Well, we can just forge ahead and see what happens.

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July 22, 2009, 03:35 AM

Hi xiaophil

This is just a great post. I also very much look forward to seeing replies preferably from native Chinese speakers who are proficient in English.

P/S. Maybe you wrote this post using WORD, didn't you? If so, pls use the "Paste from Word" button in the toolbar.

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July 22, 2009, 01:09 PM

加油 sebire, but the babies have got something that we grownups haven't. Moms and dads! ;)

Well many of us do in fact have moms and dads, but maybe not teaching us Mandarin.

I went and got a Chinese wife, but I should have just got a Chinese mom! Ah well, least my little chip off the old block should have a good chance of winning this game!

Interesting article RJ. :)

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July 22, 2009, 02:17 PM

4. 我们两天以前以来在这里一顿也没吃了 ithink this sentence have some mistakes~ “以前”and“以来”is different from the mean。One is previous,another is since.we can't put them togther.在这里 also have mistake,来这里is more better。I think you want express :We have come here without foods for two days。right?so i think the “我们来到这儿有两天没吃饭了”is better~hope it can help you~~嘻嘻

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July 22, 2009, 02:31 PM

Thanks to all who have commented so far.  There have been some good pointers and insights.  (And zoekoo, you are right about my grammar mistake.)

Perhaps someone can take a look at my original translations given in the post?  Pretty please.  (I know--so pathetically demanding.)

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July 22, 2009, 03:10 PM

Thanks a lot rjberki,your explanation is as perfect as mine, haha. I'll read that article some time later.

I have a problem of distinguishing till and until.



你有如何的英文问题,请问我。(应该说:你有什么英语问题,请问我。“如何”是“怎么样”的意思,是一个古汉语,ancient Chinese,用在正式formal或者幽默humorous的地方。


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July 22, 2009, 04:27 PM

Seconding (thirding? fourthing?) xiaophil's request for comments on the sentences in his original post. I'd also very much like to know once and for all about these things.

(But these questions are also about very tricky English grammar points that we take for granted--I mean, can you imagine trying to get a grip on the Future Perfect and all these different tenses as a learner of English? I have a feeling the conclusive word is going to come from an English-native expert of Mandarin.)

Sebire I like your attitude. While we may fall short of our wildest delusions, we are also likely to make better progress by stopping less to bemoan our current (lack of) ability, right?


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July 22, 2009, 07:26 PM

zhenlijiang, I think good progress is just generally ensured by being competitive and stubborn and believing in your ultimate superiority over the vexed problem. I refuse to be beaten by the following: babies, computers, Chinese and maths. Babies can't even feed themselves, computers can only count to 1, a billion people can speak Chinese and maths is mainly letters. Clearly, none of these things are hard! Delusion gets you far :D

xiaophil, my grammar book seems to agree with you for all sentences that do not contain a 着. I don't get 着, so you may well be right.

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July 22, 2009, 08:04 PM


I agree with you and I believe we all are able (and very capable) to learn a second language, you just have to work at it.


I always love reading your  comments on cpod and thanks for all the great help you provide to all of us,   I thought your comment about getting a chinese mom was funny, I have heard and read that chinese wives/girlfriends dont necessarily make the best tutors and besides its better that you dont suggest that men learning chinese go out and get a chinese wife like you did, What if they already have a non chinese wife ? she could get pretty upset about that?

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July 22, 2009, 10:18 PM

xiaophil, doesn't 我明天会看着书 mean "I'm going to stare at a book tomorrow" rather than read?

I did some Googling, and found the following example:


If you go to his house at 12 pm tomorrow, he'll definitely be having his lunch.

It then goes on to say that the future progressive aspect needs to have an adverb (in this case 一定).

My attempt:


(Corrections very welcome - inspired by this week's ellie lesson!)

I decided to forget about English grammar (not that I knew anything in the first place) when I read this:

"While inflectional languages like English are concerned with marking the time of the action in relation to the time of the remark in which it is brought up, Chinese is more concerned with the developmental stage of an action. A time expression alone or even the context itself is sufficient to show time, such as the past, the present or the future. Therefore, inflection is not at all necessary and is non-existent in Chinese. In a given time frame, in Chinese an action is viewed with an emphasis on a particular phase along the course of its progress, which can be its beginning, its continuation, or its completion. “Each of these stages is referred to as an ‘aspect.’ A past action has all these aspects, so does a present action and a future action. Therefore, in English, the ‘perfective,’ or the ‘completive,’ may appear in the present tense, the past tense or the future tense."

Lots of examples:

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July 22, 2009, 12:28 PM

RJ, xiaophil, self-delusion is the way forward. I refuse to believe my adult brain cannot cope with something a baby can do. I am totally not being beaten by a baby!!!