Master the Uses of Particle了(le) – Chinese Grammar

The Chinese particle “了(le)”  is one of the most frequently used function words in Chinese. It has no specific meaning, but it is widely used to express grammatical features in both spoken and written Chinese. Many foreign students are confused about how to use “了(le)” and when to use it. Considering the complex usage of  “了(le)”, here we summarize 4 common uses of  “了(le)” in Mandarin Chinese.

1. Expressing the completion of an action with 了 (le)

The structure “Verb + 了(le)” indicates that an action is completed or realized. The action can be not only in the past, but also in the present and the future.

For example:


Wǒ mǎile yì běn shū.

I bought a book.


Wǒ chīle hěn duō dōngxi.

I ate a lot of food.


Zuótiān wǒ qùle túshūguǎn.

I went to the library yesterday.


Tā láile wǒ huì gàosu nǐ.

I'll tell you when he comes.


Tā zài wǒ jiā zhùle sān tiān.

He stayed in my house for three days.


(1) "了(le)" can not be used with the multiple, repetitive or habitual actions.

For example:


Yǐqián wǒ jīngcháng qù túshūguǎn.

I used to go to the library.


Yǐqián wǒ jīngcháng qùle túshūguǎn.


Qùnián wǒ yìzhí zài Zhōngguó xué Hànyǔ.

I have been learning Chinese in China last year.

*去年我一直在中国学了汉语。 ×

Qùnián wǒ yìzhí zài Zhōngguó xuéle Hànyǔ.


Wǒ měi tiān zuò dìtiě qù xuéxiào.

I go to school by subway every day.

*我每天坐地铁去了学校。 × 

Wǒ měi tiān zuò dìtiě qù xuéxiào.

(2) When “了(le)” indicates that an action is completed or realized, the negative form of the sentence is “没(méi)+ verb”. “了(le)” should be omitted.

For example:


Zuótiān wǒ méi qù túshūguǎn.

I didn’t go to the library yesterday.


Zuótiān wǒ méi qùle túshūguǎn.


Tā méi mǎi yīfu.

He didn't buy any clothes.


Tā méi mǎile yīfu.


Wǒ méi kànjiàn Wáng lǎoshī.

I didn’t see teacher Wang.


Wǒ méi kànjiànle Wáng lǎoshī.


Tā méi lái xuéxiào.

He didn’t come to school.


Tā méi láile xuéxiào.


Wǒ méi chī fàn.

I didn’t eat.


Wǒ méi chīle fàn.

(3) When “了 (le)” is used in the future tense, there are usually two actions. “了(le)” is usually placed after the first action, indicating to do the second action when the first action is completed.

For example:


Wǒ dàole Měiguó jiù gěi nǐ dǎ diànhuà.

I'll call you when I get to America.


Wǒ xiàle kè qù zhǎo nǐ.

I'll see you after class.


Tāmen zhǔnbèi bìyèle jiù jiéhūn.

They are going to get married as soon as they graduate.

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2.  Indicating a change of state with 了 (le)

“了(le)” is used at the end of a sentence to indicate that a situation changes or a new situation occurs.

For example:


Wǒ jīnnián èrshí suì le.

I'm 20 years old this year.

(I wasn’t 20 years old before, but now I’m 20 years old.)


Wǒ bù xǐhuan chī píngguǒ le.

I don’t like to eat apples anymore.

(I liked to eat apples before, but now I don’t like anymore.)


Wǒ xiǎng huí jiā le.

I want to go home.

(I didn’t want to go home before, but now I changed my mind.)


Tā huì shuō Hànyǔ le.

She can speak Chinese now.

(She couldn’t speak Chinese before, but now she can.)


Wàimiàn xià yǔ le.

It's raining outside.

(It wasn’t raining before, but that is the situation now.)

 3. Expressing duration with 了 (le)

“了(le)” is used at the end of a sentence and after the verb to indicate that an action is completed and to describe the completion of the action till now.

For example:


Tā láile zhōngguó sān nián le.

He has been in China three years.


Wǒ xué Hànyǔ xuéle sì ge yuè le.

I have been learning Chinese four months.


Tā qùle yīyuàn le.

He has gone to the hospital.


Wǒ chànɡle yì shǒu ɡē le.

I have sung a song.

 4. 了(le) used in common sentence patterns

“了(le)” can also go with other words in sentence structures. For more uses of 了(le), you can download and read the PDF transcript of this lesson.

(1) 就要(jiùyào)......了(le): be about to


Tāmen jiù yào jiéhūn le.

They are about to get married.


Wǒ jiù yào chūguó le.

I'm about to go abroad.

(2) 已经(yǐjīng)......了(le): already


Wǒ yǐjīng yǒu nán péngyou le.

I already have a boyfriend.


Yǐjīng hěn wǎn le, wǒmen zǒu ba.

It's already really late. Let's go.


Wǒ xuéxí Zhōngwén yǐjīng yī nián le.

I have already been studying Chinese for a year.

(3) 太(tài)......了(le): too, excessively, so, very


Lǎobǎn tài máng le.

The boss is too busy.


Zhège nǚhái tài piàoliang le.

This girl is so pretty.

(4) 别(bié)......了(le): stop doing somthing


Bié zuò le, míngtiān zuò ba.

Stop doing it. Do it tomorrow.


Xià yǔ le, bié chūqu le.

It's raining. Don’t go out.

5. Get the PDF transcript, mp3 and take the quiz

Well, these are four common uses of Chinese particle “了(le)”. They are not difficult to understand. But to fully master how to use “了(le)” in Chinese, you need to understand them in practice. You can download the MP3 and PDF below for on-the-go learning. Don’t forget to take the quiz on this lesson to solidify your knowledge you've learnt today!  For more questions, please let us know in the comment section.



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