A question about our pesky friend 了

December 17, 2009, 12:25 AM posted in I Have a Question

I recently wrote the following:


I fretted a bit as to whether I should include 了 somewhere in the sentence.  It seems to me that 了 only goes with 去 to emphasize new information to the reader/listener but not to express the action is complete (somewhat similar to the past tense).   I also felt that because I clearly established that the action happened in the past (今年夏天) it isn't needed.  Can anyone clarify this for me?

Extra question: is 过 appropriate here?  The first time I learned this word, I was told that it is similar to 'before', but it seems to me sometimes emphasizes that the action occured some time before.

Second extra question: do Chinese people ever say 上个夏天, as in 'last summer'?  It seems to me they don't, but sometimes I say it anyway out of habit.


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December 17, 2009, 12:46 AM

过 isn't appropriate here, because it's the experienced action marker. This means it's equivalent to "have (verb)" in English. It would be appropriate if you wanted to say "I have been to Europe." To express "I went to Europe", you would use 了. I'm pretty sure 了 would be required in this sentence, even though you established the time period. I'd like for someone to confirm that though.

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December 17, 2009, 12:50 AM


The thing is that's it's tricky, Chinese people can never give you exact rules of usage, so I've just kind of learned it by feeling it out.

The basic rules of 了 are,

1- Indication of past action or completion of action.

2- Indication of a change in state.

3- Used in combination with 要 to indicate future certainty. (IE: 我要去中国了)

Although I'm not guaranteeing the complete accuracy of this rewrite, my correction is as follows:


Sometimes I'm a bit confused by 过 because I used to think it could only be used to denote a past experience.  In other words 我吃过中国菜, I've eaten Chinese food before. (I've had the expience of eating Chinese food).

Lately I've found that 我吃过了 is a set phrase that means , "I've eaten" which could be taken to mean, you just had lunch a moment ago.

I've also heard, 你吃过饭了吗?Which just seems bizzare to me. I take it to mean the same as asking in English, "have you ever eaten food"?  The phrase just means, "have you eaten yet?"

It seems weird, but I have heard it.

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December 17, 2009, 01:21 AM

jckeith, xiaohu

I'm fairly convinced that 去过 was wrong.  I must admit, though, I have lingering doubt, as like you said xiaohu, I have also heard the sentence  你吃过饭了吗?  It seems to me I have seen/heard some other 过 sentences that break conceptions of how it should be used.  I have a feeling it comes down to rule exceptions.

As for putting 去 and 了 together in the same sentence, I did a little search at nciku.com, and just about the only time I saw 了 with 去 is when the speaker wanted to tell the listener some new information or to emphasize something (just like the 了 in  没有了,  doesn't mean a completed action; it means 'I don't have it.') and not to express a completed action.  Maybe I can lure a Chinese staff member in here.


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December 17, 2009, 01:27 AM

yeah,u lure me here.你们上面所说的并不奇怪啊?反而把“了”去掉后句子就有问题了

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December 17, 2009, 01:31 AM

Hi, your sentence should be


"verb+过" emphasizes that you have experienced it before,and there shouldn't be any specific time word in the sentence.so you can say我去过欧洲的几个国家。

as xiaohu said about 了,that are the basic rules.

we say 去年夏天 instead of 上个夏天.


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December 17, 2009, 01:33 AM



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December 17, 2009, 01:37 AM



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December 17, 2009, 01:42 AM


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December 17, 2009, 02:23 AM


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December 17, 2009, 02:34 AM