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Dynamic / Aspect Particle 了 in Chinese | 了1 vs. 了2 | Verb1 了 Verb2

In today's video lesson we’ll learn how to use the Dynamic / Aspect Particle 了 in Chinese and compare 了1 vs. 了2. We'll also learn how to use the structure V1了V2 in Chinese.

  • Dynamic / Aspect Particle 了 in Chinese - 了1 (See also Modal Particle 了 in Chinese - 了2 in Level 1 Lesson 26)
  • Aspect in Chinese vs. Tense in English
  • Verb1 了 Verb2
  • 了1 vs. 了2



Grammar 1: Dynamic / Aspect Particle 了 in Chinese · HSK 2

A Dynamic Particle, also known as Aspect Particle is called 动态助词(Dòngtài Zhùcí) in Chinese.

了 is a very common Dynamic / Aspect Particle in Chinese. We can use it to suggest that an action is already done and competed, or an event already happened.

The usage of 了 is one of the most important grammar out of all for beginners, intermediate as well as advanced Chinese learners. So it deserves a little bit extra attention and practice.

In a sentence, we can use 了 in this way:

Subject + Verb 了 (+ Object)

For example,

  • wǒ jiē le yíge diànhuà
    I answered one "ge" (of) phone call.
  • tā huídá le nàge wèntí
    He answered that "ge" (of) question.

For yes-or-no questions, there are two ways to ask.

(1) Subject + Verb 了 (+ Object) 吗?
(2) Subject + Verb 了 (+ Object) 没有?

  • nǐ shì le nà jiàn yīfu ma
    Have you tried that "jian" (of) clothes?
  • nǐ shì le nà jiàn yīfu méiyou
    Have you tried that "jian" (of) clothes?


To answer questions, for yes, Verb了, And for no, 没Verb, 没有Verb,

Y: ……Verb了 ……。
N: ……没(有) Verb……。

For example,

  • Q: tā zǒule ma
          Did he leave?
    Y: zǒule. tā zǒu le
          Yes. He left.
    méi zǒu. tā méi zǒu
          No. He didn't leave.
  • Q: nǐ hējiǔ le ma
          Have you drunk alcohol?
    Y: hēle. wǒ hējiǔ le
          喝了。 我喝酒了。
          Yes. I drank alcohol.
    méiyǒu hē. wǒ méiyǒu hējiǔ
          No. I didn't drink alcohol.


Grammar 2: Aspect in Chinese vs. Tense in English · HSK 2

In all the above sentences, the Dynamic/Aspect Particle 了 is used as a marker, attached to the Action Verb, to mark that the action is completed or done. However, it is very important for us to be aware that, 了 does not suggest “past tense”.

We have mentioned the concept of Aspect in Chinese language before. In Chinese we do not have the concept of the English “Tense” 时态(shí tài, time state), instead we have “Aspect” 动态(dòng tài, action state).

TENSE focuses on a timeline, past, present future, while Aspect focuses on the state of the action itself, did it already happened or not, is it about to happen, in the process of happening or is it going to happen.

TENSE is based on the point of view of a timeline, there is past, present and future tense, and so we have, did, do, have done, will do, and so on. ASPECT is based on the point of view of an action itself, Verb了 just suggest that the state of the action is that it happened already or is done already. It could have happened in the past, present or in the future.


Grammar 3: Verb1 了 Verb2 · HSK 2

了 itself only tells us that the action is done, but it doesn’t tells us when the action is done. It’s the context, and Time Word that tell us when the action is done. A good understanding of the concept “Aspect” can prevent us from simply taking 了 as the equivalent of “past tense”. There’s a very useful structure with 了, that can help us understand the concept of “Aspect” better. The structure is:

Verb1 Verb2

It suggests that Verb 1 happens before Verb2. 了 here marks the completion of Verb1. For example,

  • wǒ mǎi le lǐwù xiě zuòyè
    I bought the gift (and then) wrote homework. / I (will) buy the gift (and then) write homework.
  • tā chī le xiāngjiāo chī xīguā
    He ate bananas (and then) ate watermelon. / He eats bananas (and then) eats watermelon.


Grammar 4: 了1 vs. 了2 · HSK 2

In Level 1 we have learned 了 as a Modal Particle, used at the end of a sentence. In today's lesson, we're using the Dynamic /  Aspect Particle 了, used after an Action Verb.

Traditionally, the Dynamic / Aspect Particle 了 is called 了1, while the Modal Particle 了 is called 了2.

They can be used together in a sentence, meaning there are two 了s in one sentence.

 Subject + Verb 了1 + Object + 了2

For example,

  • wǒ jiē le diànhuà le
    I answered the phone call (already).
  • tā gěi le wǒ lǐwù le
    He gave me the gift (already).

First, 了1 suggests that the action of me answering the phone is completed, and second, 了2 suggests that the event of me having answered the phone is completed as well, so that the situation is different now than when I haven’t answered it.

Sometimes, even though there are only one 了 used, at the end of a sentence, it takes on the meaning of both 了1 and 了2, let’s just call it 了1+2. In this situation, it’s usually at the end of a sentence, suggesting that the action is done and BECAUSE OF THAT the situation is also different.

For example,

  • nǐ xiěle zuòyè le ma
    Did you write homework (already)?
  • tāmen jìnqu le
    They went in (alreay).


Collapse Comments
Roxanne CuPremium Student August 19, 2022 at 5:37 am


RobPremium Student July 31, 2022 at 10:22 pm

at 2.48 mintues, isn’t “liang jin” 2 kilograms not 1 kilogram? I’m confused

ChineseFor.UsAcademic Team August 2, 2022 at 5:25 am

It might be a little bit confusing but 1 斤(jīn) = 500 grams =1/2 kilogram.

vibe2020Premium Student July 15, 2020 at 7:39 am

Why the lesson is so long.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Some grammar points take longer time to explain than others. Also for some grammar points we would write more example sentences because we believe that the example sentence input is fundamental for building up language skills like listening and speaking.

If the video is too long, please feel free to break it into different days. You can always revisit and pick up from where you left off.

Peter BrumwellPremium Student November 17, 2020 at 9:52 pm

Oh mate.. This is an important and subtle structure explained really well. The longer lessons are the best.

ApplePremium Student July 29, 2021 at 6:22 am

100% agree
I have been struggling with this, and actually skipped a few lessons to take this lesson first.
You actually save a lot of time if it is explained clearly (which means a longer lesson)

RobPremium Student July 31, 2022 at 10:23 pm

the longer the better. more examples to practice

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