Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Using Verb Tenses in Chinese
Using Verb Tenses in Chinese Western languages such as English have several ways to express tense. The most common are verb conjunctions which change the form of the verb depending on the time frame. For example, the English verb eat can be changed to ate for past actions and eating for current actions. Mandarin Chinese does not have any verb conjugations. All verbs have a single form. For example, the verb for eat is Ã¥ Æ' (chÃ «), which can be used for the past, present, and future. Despite the lack of Mandarin verb conjugations, there are other ways to express timeframes in Mandarin Chinese. State the Date The simplest way toÃ clarify which tense you are speaking in is to directly state the time expression (like today, tomorrow, yesterday) as part of the sentence. In Chinese, this is usually at the beginning of the sentence. For example: Ã¦Ë ¨Ã¥ ¤ ©Ã¦ËâÃ¥ Æ'Ã¨ ± ¬Ã¨ââ°Ã£â¬âÃ¦Ë ¨Ã¥ ¤ ©Ã¦ËâÃ¥ Æ'Ã§Å' ªÃ¨ââ°Ã£â¬âZuÃ ³tiÃ n wÃâ chÃ « zhÃ « rÃ ²u.Yesterday I ate pork. Once the timeframe is established, it is understood and can be omitted from the rest of the conversation. Completed Actions The particle Ã¤ ºâ (le) is used to indicate that an action occurred in the past and has been completed. Like the time expression, it can be omitted once the timeframe has been established: (Ã¦Ë ¨Ã¥ ¤ ©)Ã¦ËâÃ¥ Æ'Ã¨ ± ¬Ã¨ââ°Ã¤ ºâ Ã£â¬â(Ã¦Ë ¨Ã¥ ¤ ©)Ã¦ËâÃ¥ Æ'Ã§Å' ªÃ¨ââ°Ã¤ ºâ Ã£â¬â(ZuÃ ³tiÃ n) wÃâ chÃ « zhÃ « rÃ ²u le.(Yesterday) I ate pork. The particle Ã¤ ºâ (le) can also be used for the immediate future, so be careful of its usage and be sure to understand both functions. Past Experience When you have done something in the past, this action can be described with the verb-suffixÃ Ã© Å½ / Ã¨ ¿â¡ (guÃ ²). For example, if you want to say that you have already seen the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ã¨â¡ ¥Ã¨â¢Å½Ã¨â" Ã© ¾ /Ã¥ §Ã¨â¢Å½Ã¨â" Ã© ¾â¢ - wÃ ² hÃâ cng long), you can say: Ã¦ËâÃ¥ · ²Ã§ ¶âÃ§Å"â¹Ã© Å½Ã¨â¡ ¥Ã¨â¢Å½Ã¨â" Ã© ¾ Ã¦ËâÃ¥ · ²Ã§ » Ã§Å"â¹Ã¨ ¿â¡Ã¥ §Ã¨â¢Å½Ã¨â" Ã© ¾â¢WÃâ yÃ jÃ «ng kn guÃ ² wÃ ² hÃâ cng long. Unlike the particle Ã¤ ºâ (le), the verb suffix guÃ ² (Ã© Å½ / Ã¨ ¿â¡) is used to talk about an unspecific past. If you want to say that you saw the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon yesterday, you would say: Ã¦Ë ¨Ã¥ ¤ ©Ã¦ËâÃ§Å"â¹Ã¨â¡ ¥Ã¨â¢Å½Ã¨â" Ã© ¾ Ã¤ ºâ Ã¦Ë ¨Ã¥ ¤ ©Ã¦ËâÃ§Å"â¹Ã¥ §Ã¨â¢Å½Ã¨â" Ã© ¾â¢Ã¤ ºâ ZuÃ ³tiÃ n wÃâ kn wÃ ² hÃâ cng lÃ ³ng le. Completed Actions In The Future As mentioned above, the particle Ã¤ ºâ (le) can be used for the future as well as the past. When used with a time expression such as Ã¦ËÅ½Ã¥ ¤ © (mÃ ngtÃ «an - tomorrow), the meaning is similar to the English perfective. Take for instance: Ã¦ËÅ½Ã¥ ¤ ©Ã¦ËâÃ¥ ° ±Ã¤ ¼Å¡Ã¥Å½ »Ã¥ °Ã¥Å'â"Ã¤ ºâ Ã¦ËÅ½Ã¥ ¤ ©Ã¦ËâÃ¥ ° ±Ã¤ ¼Å¡Ã¥Å½ »Ã¥ °Ã¥Å'â"Ã¤ ºâ MÃ ngtiÃ n wÃâ jiÃ ¹ huÃ ¬ qÃ ¹ TibÃâºi le.Tomorrow I will have gone to Taipei. The near future is expressed with the combination of the particles Ã¨ ¦ (yo - to intend); Ã¥ ° ± (jiÃ ¹ - right away); or Ã¥ ¿ « (kui - soon) with the particle Ã¤ ºâ (le): Ã¦ËâÃ¨ ¦ Ã¥Å½ »Ã¥ °Ã¥Å'â"Ã¤ ºâ WÃâ yo qÃ ¹ TibÃâºi le.Im just going to Taipei. Continuing Actions When an action is continuing to the present moment, the expressions Ã¦ £Ã¥Å" ¨ (zhÃ ¨ngzi), Ã¦ £ (zhÃ ¨ng) or Ã¥Å" ¨ (zi) can be used, along with the particle Ã¥â ¢ (ne) at the end of the sentence. This can look something like: Ã¦ËâÃ¦ £Ã¥Å" ¨Ã¥ Æ'Ã© £ ¯Ã¥â ¢WÃâ zhÃ ¨ngzi chÃ «fn ne.I am eating. or Ã¦ËâÃ¦ £Ã¥ Æ'Ã© £ ¯Ã¥â ¢WÃâ zhÃ ¨ng chÃ «fn ne.I am eating. or Ã¦ËâÃ¥Å" ¨Ã¥ Æ'Ã© £ ¯Ã¥â ¢WÃâ zi chÃ «fn ne.I am eating. or Ã¦ËâÃ¥ Æ'Ã© £ ¯Ã¥â ¢WÃâ chÃ «fn ne.I am eating. The continuative action phrase is negated with Ã¦ ² ¡ (mÃ ©i), and Ã¦ £Ã¥Å" ¨ (zhÃ ¨ngzi) is omitted. The Ã¥â ¢ (ne), however, remains. For example: Ã¦ËâÃ¦ ² ¡Ã¥ Æ'Ã© £ ¯Ã¥â ¢WÃâ mÃ ©i chÃ «fn ne.I am not eating. Mandarin Chinese Tenses It is often said that Mandarin Chinese does not have any tenses. If tenses mean verb conjugation, this is true, since verbs in Chinese have an unchangeable form. However, as we can see in the above examples, there are many ways to express timeframes in Mandarin Chinese. The main difference in terms of grammar between Mandarin Chinese and European languages is that once a timeframe has been established in Mandarin Chinese, there is no longer any need for precision. This means sentences are constructed in simple forms without verb endings or other qualifiers. When talking to a native Mandarin Chinese speaker, Westerners may get confused with this lack of continuous precision. But this confusion arises from the comparison between English (and other Western languages) and Mandarin Chinese. Western languages require subject/verb agreements, without which the language will be glaringly wrong. Compare this with Mandarin Chinese, in which a simple statement can be in any timeframe, or express a question, or be an answer.