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Is “了(le)” All Used In the Past Tense? | “了”都用于过去时吗?


“le” is very common in Chinese sentences, but many foreigners don’t know how to use it. Does the word “le” always mean the past? The following sentences all have “le”, but their tenses are different. Today, let’s take a look at the simple use of “le”.



The “le” in “V+ + (O)” is often used in the past tense. Especially when there is no definite time word in the sentence, we all know that when we use “le”, we refer to the past.


Wánɡ xiānshenɡ qù le Běijīnɡ.


Mr. Wang went to Beijing.



The addition of “le” means that it has already happened that Mr. Wang went to Beijing.


However, we should not think that “le” means the past.


Mínɡtiān xià le bān wǒ jiù qù zhǎo nǐ.


I’ll see you after work tomorrow.

Xiàwǔ xià le kè wǒ jiù qù cāochǎnɡ , zánmen cāochǎnɡ jiàn!


I’ll go to the playground after class this afternoon. See you at the playground!



The tenses of the two sentences above are for the future.


Please note that in future situations, there are usually two actions in a sentence. The word “le” is placed after the first action to indicate that the second action should be taken after the first action.


xià bān   qù zhǎo nǐ

下班    去找你

①            ②

after work     come to see you

xià le bān qù zhǎo nǐ

→    下了班去找你

come to see you after work



It can be seen that “le” also means finished. It is only because the completed action is often already happened, so that the “le” is often related to the past time. But that doesn’t mean it’s all about the past. So the “le”  can be used in the future tense as well as the past tense.

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