Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China
  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
Christa

我們到了 - past tense "了" or change of situation "了"?

Recommended Posts

Christa

What do you think of this sentence / phrase 我們到了 / wǒmen dào le?

 

Would you say that the 了 in it is expressing 1. the past tense (we arrived) 2. a change of situation (we have now arrived) or 3. could be either - it depends on context.

 

If it's the latter, what if we put it in the context of a taxi journey. You arrive and the taxi driver says "小姐,我們到了". Would you take the 了 as acting to make the sentence past tense or a change of situation?

 

Would love to know your thoughts,

 

 

Christina

  • Good question! 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Lu

Flippant answer: it doesn't make the sentence past tense, because the sentence is in Chinese, which doesn't have a past tense.

Less flippant: I think 到了 can always be explained as a 'change of situation': Previously we had not arrived, but now we are arriving. You can often translate it as past tense, but that's just because that's the way we say it in English/Dutch/other languages, not because it is inherently past tense. Indeed, it's often said just before the train/taxi/plane actually comes to a halt, so in a way it should be future tense.

 

Anecdote, I forgot who told me this story or whom it happened to:

A man, beginner of Chinese, is in China and wants to take a bus. He comes to a bus stop.

When does the bus come? he asks someone waiting there.

啊,车到了, exclaims the lady.

了, that means it's past tense, the man thinks, recalling his textbook. That's too bad, the bus has come and I missed it. So he walks off.

  • Like 2
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Christa

Yeah, I know:

 

"Chinese doesn't have past tense, it has aspect," explains the Chinese teacher.

 

"Really?" a newcomer to the language says.

 

"Yes," comes the reply. "Here we are using the perfective aspectual particle."

 

"What's that do?" the newcomer asks.

 

"Erm, lets you use the past tense," comes the reply.

 

You are right though, of course.

 

Your explanation is really good though, Lu. I also thought this but wanted to check.

 

Yes 到了 would probably always suggest a change of situation. I suppose the nature of arriving guarantees that.

 

Thanks again for your help!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim

As I understand it, the 了 simply indicates that the action of the verb is completed, any location in time of that completion will come from a wider context. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
陳德聰

I think I have read somewhere that there are cases where it is both.

  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Christa
1 hour ago, 陳德聰 said:

I think I have read somewhere that there are cases where it is both.

 

Indeed. Here's an interesting example, courtesy of chineseboost.com:

 

我到了城里卖掉我偷的车。

Wǒ dào le chéng lǐ mài diào wǒ tōu de chē.

I've come to the city to sell the cars I stole.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×