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Talking about “which time” in Chinese

which time in chinese, learning chinese

It is sometimes useful to talk about which time something happened. For example, you may need to say, "The second time I went, there was nobody there."

We specify particular times in Mandarin Chinese with 次 (cì). The sentence structure is:

Subject – Specifier – Number – 次 (cì) – Verb – (Secondary Clause)

Here is an example:


Wǒ dì èr cì qù, méiyǒu rén zài.

The second time I went, there was nobody there.

To emphasize the time expression, it may be placed before the subject, as in this example:


Dì èr cì wǒ qù, méiyǒu rén zài.

It was the second time I went that nobody was there.


The specifier that is used in this sentence structure can be words such as:

每 – měi – each; every

上 – shàng – previous; last

下 – xià – next

这 – zhè – this

那 – nà – that


The number is sometimes optional, especially when the specifier is either 上 (shàng – previous) or 下 (xià – next), as in this example:


Wǒ měi (yī) cì qù, dàjiā dōu hěn máng.

Every time I go, everyone is busy.


Here are some more examples:


Tā dì yī cì wèn nǐ, nǐ shuō shénme?

The first time he asked you, what did you say?


Nǐ shàng cì qù, mǎi shén me dōngxī?

The last time you went, what did you buy?


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