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Chinese verb tenses

verb tense.jpg

For every language, correct understanding and usage of verbs are crucially important. Only if you can use verbs correctly can you express your mind accurately. Tense is the state of an action that a verb indicates. In English and other alphabetic languages, verbs have different forms to express their tenses.



But, Chinese is a kind of pictograph. So, its tenses are not expressed through changing the form of verbs themselves but through adding certain adverbs or depending on the context – so much, in fact, that the tenses in Chinese are a little vague; we can say there are only aspects of verbs but not explicit tenses in Chinese.



As for aspect, grammarians have varieties of arguments; they have not come to an agreement. What I advocate is that Chinese has two aspects of verb: progressive aspect and perfect aspect.



For example,




I have seen that movie.


This is a sentence in perfect aspect.



The three sentences are all sentences in progressive aspect.




I watch movies.



I am watching a movie.



I will watch a movie.


The most commonly used indicators are 着 (zhe), 了 (le), and 过 (guò), although they are not necessarily included in every Chinese sentence. 着 means something is going on, that is, progressive aspect, while 了 and 过 suggest perfect aspect. On the other hand, though the tenses are not very explicit just from observing the form of a verb, we can also come up with some typical ways, mostly by means of adverbs, to describe different tenses corresponding some of those in English.



Let's look at some ways of expressing different tenses in Chinese:





According to the above examples, you have understood that Chinese people use a lot of adverbs and context to help to make clear what tense a verb is in. The tenses in the above form are just major tenses in Chinese; some other tenses are possible but not very often used.


Translated from: italki.com


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