Level 1 Lesson 26.1 – He Has Gone To The School

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Modal Particle le 了 in Chinese | Zero-Subject Sentence in Chinese 无主句

In this video lesson we'll learn how to use Modal Particle le 了 in Chinese to suggest a "new situation" and we'll also learn about Zero-Subject Sentence in Chinese 无主句 Wúzhǔjù.

  • Modal Particle le 了 in Chinese - 了2 (See also Dynamic / Aspect Particle 了 in Chinese - 了1 in Level 2  Lesson 16)
  • Zero-Subject Sentence in Chinese 无主句 Wúzhǔjù
  • To rain and to snow in Chinese: 下雨, 下雪
  • Minute in Chinese: 分 vs 分钟



Grammar 1: Modal Particle le 了 in Chinese (I)-New Situation · HSK 1

There are a lot of Particles in Chinese, and 了 is probably the most important one. It can either be used as a Aspect Particle or a Modal Particle.

In this lesson we’ll learn about Modal Particle le 了 in Chinese. It indicates that something has happened, appeared, been realized. In other words, the state of something has changed, and there is a "new situation" now.

Compare the two sentences in each group:

  • tā shí suì
    he is 10 years old [a state]
  • tā shí suì le
    he (is) 10 years old (now) [a new state]


  • wǒ xiǎng xué Zhōngwén
    I want to learn Chinese [a state]
  • wǒ xiǎng xué Zhōngwén le
    I want to learn Chinese (now) [a new state]


  • wǒ bù mǎi fēijīpiào
    I don't buy plane ticket [a state]
  • wǒ bù mǎi fēijīpiào le
    I don't (plan to) buy plane ticket (anymore) [a new state]


We usually use 了 at the end of a sentence and in such a structure:

Subject + Verb Predicate (+Object) + 

For example,

With Object

  • tā yǒu nánpéngyou le
    she has (a) boyfriend (now) [she didn't have one before]
  • wǒmen bù xǐhuan chī miàntiáo le
    we don't like eating noodles (now) [we did like eating it before]

Without Object

  • wǒ bù mǎi fēijīpiào
    I don't buy plane ticket [a state]
  • wǒ bù mǎi fēijīpiào le
    I don't (plan to) buy plane ticket (anymore) [a new state]


Subject + Adj. Predicate + 

For example,

  • nǐde kāfēi lěng le
    your coffee (is) cold (now) [it was hot earlier]
  • Běijīngde fángzi xiànzài piányi le
    houses in Beijing (are) cheap (now) [compared with before]
  • sùshède diànshì huài le
    the TV in the dormitory (is) broken (now) [it was working earlier]

Subject + N. Predicate + 

For example,

  • wǒ jīnnián shísuì le
    I (am) 10 years old this year
  • jīntiān shíbā hào le
    today (is already) the 18th (of the month)


When using the Modal Particle le  了 in Chinese, we are not looking at the Tense, we’re looking at the action or the event itself, and 了 indicates the state of the action or event, that it’s been done or it has happened already. But we’re not pointing out whether the status is in the past, present or future with 了. It could be any of them. For example,

  • wǒ zuótiān shísuì le
    I (became) 10 years old yesterday
  • wǒ jīntiān shísuì le
    today I (am) 10 years old (now)
  • wǒ míngtiān shísuì le
    I (will be) 10 years old tomorrow

Grammar 2: Zero-Subject Sentence in Chinese 无主句 · HSK 1

With 了 sentences, it usually follows this order: Subject Predicate (Object) plus 了, but sometimes we don’t need to say the Subject if it’s obvious. Sentences without a Subject, are called Zero-subject Sentence 无主句 Wúzhǔjù.

Predicate + 

  • xiàyǔ le
    (it is now) raining / (it has) rained
  • zhīdào le
    (someone decided by the context) know (already)
  • wǔyuè le
    (it is) May (already)
  • wǔgeyuè le
    (it has been) five months (already)
  • yìxiǎoshí èrshífēnzhōng le
    (it has been) 1 hour and 20 minutes (already)


Grammar 3: To Rain and to Snow in Chinese · HSK 1

We have learned 下 xià as a Locality Noun meaning "down; underneath; bottom" in Lesson 15, but in this lesson,  in 下雨 and 下雪, 下 means "to go down; to fall down". It is used to suggest that for snow or rain to fall down.

  • xiàyǔ
    to rain [down falls the rain]
  • xiàxuě
    to snow [down falls the snow]


Grammar 4: Minute in Chinese: 分 vs 分钟 · HSK 1

In Lesson 14 of our Basic Chinese Course, we learned that 分 fēn means minute. The word 分钟 fēnzhōng also means minute in Chinese. The difference is that for reading a certain time on the clock, for example 4:20, we can only use 分, not 分钟.

But if we want to say "20 minutes", we use 分钟. 

Collapse Comments
TaylorPremium Student March 24, 2020 at 6:38 pm

In the example sentences why don’t adjectives like 便宜 and 冷 have 很 in front of them?

Adjectives like these, when functioning as the Predicate in a sentence, usually cannot be used independently. This is why 很 has to be used in sentences like 这里很冷。那个手机很便宜。

When they are used with Particle 了, they are already not independent, so there is no need to supplement with other words.

vcirilliPremium Student April 5, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Why not, 苹果手机便宜了,doesn’t the 了 make 现在 redundant?

了 does not suggest “present sense”, it only suggests “a new situation; something changed”. For example we can also say “去年(qùnián, last year)苹果手机便宜了。[Last years Apple Phones (had become) cheaper.]”

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