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How do you express something that you were doing?

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For example, "I was reading a book" or "I was saying xyz" etc; Is there a past tense of 在 or something?


Also, the other day I saw this construction: "你不是说xyz吗?" If someone could explain that to me that would be a huge help also. Thanks.

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There are no tenses past or future in Chinese, instead Chinese uses aspects.


Usually you would say Today I shop. Yesterday I shop, Tomorrow I shop. and so on,  you will notice that the time when is first so you know when a thing happened and the verb doesn't change.


There are other ways to describe things in the past and future but not by using tenses.


I suggest you have a look at this http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/ there is a lot of help here.


How long have you been learning Chinese? If you are using a text book or are attending classes, expressing things in the past, future etc will be taught.


There is no simple answer to this question, it will get clearer as you progress.



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"你不是说xyz吗?" would be something along the lines of "Didn't you say XYZ?"


A: 我想去看演唱会。

B: 你不是说你想看电影吗?
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在 before the verb, or 着 after the verb. It depends on the specific situation. You might not need to make it explicit at all.


A: 你今早8点钟在干什么? What were you doing at 8 o'clock this morning? (Note the use of 在)
B: 睡觉。 Sleeping. (You could use 在 here, but it is not necessary.)

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Xiao Kui

if I was just doing it i might say 我刚才在看一本书。 I don't know if it's 100% correct but it makes sense to me :)

刚才gang1cai2 means "just"

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So 我在看一本书 can mean I am reading a book or I was reading a book?


That's why if you want to make it clear when something happened you put that information at the beginning of your sentence.


Using 了at the end of a sentence indicates an action completed. (or after a verb). the use of le is not simple, I suggest you look it up on Chinese Grammar wiki or in your text book.


Using 过 indicates something that has been experienced, time has passed.

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  • 2 weeks later...
If you wanna say what you were doing in the past, it's simply 我在***, eg.我在看电视/我在看书… if you wanna emphasize that you were doing sth and nothing else, you can say (那时)我在***, eg.(那时)我正在看电视…

chinese verb is not inflected, the information of tense & aspect is given by prep. or context, for example 1)我看书 2)看书了 3) A:你昨晚干什么了?B:看书 4) 明晚你打算干什么?B:看书

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