Lots of students may find it difficult to distinguish those two Chinese words: 才(cái) and 就(jiù) when learning Mandarin Chinese. In today's lesson, let's learn the difference between the Chinese characters 才(cái) and 就(jiù) and how to use them correctly.
Before we get started, take a look at the sentences below and see if you can have an idea about the use of these two words.
Hurry up, Jay Chou concert starts at 7 o’clock.
No hurry. It’s only 5 o’clock. It’s still early.
(Half an hour later)
It’s half past five, we’re going to be late.
The concert doesn’t start until 7 o’clock, so we still have time.
You may still be confused or even more confused about “才” and “就” after reading these two conversations. Don’t worry, we’ll explain them to you one by one below.
1. When 才 and 就 are placed after time words
才 indicates that something in discussion takes place later than the speaker expected, or it lasts longer than he expected. The pattern is “ Subj. + Time Word + 才+ V + (O)”.
就 indicates that the speaker feels something discussed happens earlier than expected, or it lasts shorter than he expected. There is usually “了” at the end of a sentence. The pattern is “Subj. + Time Words + 就 + V + (O) +了”.
Here are some examples:
The concert starts at 7 o’clock. (The speaker thinks the concert starts late)
The concert started at 7 o’clock. (The speaker thinks the concert starts early)
We started to work at 8:30, but he arrived at 9:30. (later than expected)
Wǒmen bā diǎn bàn shàng bān, tā bā diǎn jiù dào le.(zǎo)
We work at 8:30, but he came to the company at 8:00. (earlier than expected)
He didn't get married until he was 30 years old. (emphasizing lateness)
He got married when he was only 20 years old. (emphasizing earliness)
It took Dali two hours to finish his homework. (longer than expected)
It only took Xiaosheng 15 minutes to finish his homework. (faster than expected)
It took him three days to finish reading this book. (longer than expected)
It only took him just one day to finish reading this book. (faster than expected)
2. 才 and 就 can be used together in sentence of contrast
In this case, “才” indicates that the quantity is small, the degree is low, or the ability is weak, while “就” indicates the quantity is large, the degree is high, or the ability is strong.
He was able to speak five languages when he was only 10 years old.
You bought ten books for only 200 yuan, and I bought only one book for 200 yuan.
The movie just started and you don't want to watch it anymore?
3. 就 can be used as 'only' to express small quantity
就 can be used to mean "only," in the sense of a small quantity. For example,
I ate only half a bowel of rice.
The temperature today is only 5 degrees.
Only did he know it.
4. 才 and 就 can be used to express the Time
In this case, 才 can indicate that something just happened, while 就 can indicate that something will happen soon. The pattern is:
Subj. + 才 + Verb Phrase
Subj. + 就 + Verb Phrase + (了)
We had a meal just now.
We’re going to eat in a few minutes.
I just got home and put down my school backpack.
I’m coming home, wait a moment.
5. Common collocations of 才 and 就
Finally, let’s take a look at some commonly used collocations with “cái” or “jiù”.
(1) 只有… 才… zhǐ yǒu … cái … only if …
Only by speaking more can you improve your Chinese.
Only by working hard can we do a good job.
(2) 如果… 就… rú guǒ … jiù … if… then…
Call me if you have any difficulties.
If you no longer love each other, just break up.
(3) 只要......就...... zhǐ yào ...jiù ... as long as…
As long as you study hard, you will make progress.
Whenever it rains, she will be in a bad mood.
(4) 一… 就… yī … jiù … as soon as
Mom went to cook as soon as she got home.
As soon as the teacher came, everyone stopped talking.
Conclusion, Quiz, Mp3 & Pdf
These are the usages of “jiù” and “cái” in Chinese grammar. We have provided a large number of sample sentences, hoping that this can help you learn how to use these two words better. If you still don’t understand them, you can tell us in the comments, and we will help you solve the puzzle or improve this article. BTW, you can download the MP3 and pdf files of this lesson, and don't forget to take the quiz below: