The use of as a modal particle




Alternative terminology: modal particle .


1. What else can be used for, apart from for indicating a completed action?


    may also be used in the following situations.

1.         To emphasize an action which has already taken place.

2.         To indicate excessiveness.

3.         To indicate change.

4.         To indicate imminent action.

5.         As a resultative complement of (completion) or (to get rid of something).


The use of to emphasize actions that have already taken place


2. How is used for emphasis?


   can be used for emphasizing an action that has been completed.

1. To emphasize a single action, two can be used: one after the verb and the other at the end of the sentence.

wŏ yĭjīng                                fàng          le táng  le

已经                                 .

I  ALREADY                           PUT        LE SUGAR LE

I've already PUT the sugar in.


wŏ yĭjīng                                chī   guò      le fàn      le

已经                         []   了饭    .

I  ALREADY                           EAT [GUO]  LE MEAL LE

I've already EATEN.


Without emphasis, it would be 我已经放了糖 or  我已经放糖了. 我已经吃()我已经吃了饭 or 我已经吃过饭了.


2. To emphasize direct or indirect speech, can be placed after the verb , , and 告诉.

wŏ yĭjīng     gēn  tā    shuō  le xué        hànyŭ   yīnggāi   yònggōng

已经            了学       汉语    应该      .


I've already SAID to him that he should work hard on (his) Chinese.


is not normally used for completed direct and indirect speech. Without the emphasis it would be: 我已经跟他说学汉语应该用功.


3. To emphasize a sequence of actions, an additional is placed after the emphasized verb.

qù   nián       tā  qĭng     le          wŏ chī   le    wŭ   dùn   fàn   



Last year he INVITED me to eat five Chinese meals.


zuótiān              tā qù       le xiăo wáng         jiā        ná      lái       le    nà    bĕn shū

             了小                    来           .


Yesterday he WENT Xiao Wang's place and brought that book back.


Without the emphasis, for completed action should be placed after the last verb of the sentence: 去年 吃了五顿 . 昨天他去小王家拿来了那本书.


3. Can be used to emphasize negative actions?


cannot be used to emphasize negation.  The adverb is placed before the negatives or to emphasize the negation.

wŏ bìng méi gēn  tā  shuō  xué        zhōngwén dĕi     yònggōng

              中文       得    用  .


I did not (at all) say to her that one must work hard at Chinese.


4. Can be used to emphasize stative verbs or complements of degree?


No, cannot be used to emphasize stative verbs or the complement of degree construction.  However, it can be used with the stative verb , and with 得多( in the comparative construction).

duì             le      tā   de   zhōngwén bĭ wŏ  hăo    duō                le

         了,          比我                .


That’s right, her Chinese is very much better than mine.


The use of to express excessiveness


5. How is used to express excessiveness?


is often placed at the end of expressions which indicate excessiveness, such as 太冷了it’s  too cold 难极了it’s extremely difficult, 可热了it’s really hot.  See the following patterns:

                stative verb

stative verb 极了

stative verb


Sometimes there is no in a expression. Why is that?

Among the above expressions, is the only one which can be used without .  But if is omitted, the tone of voice can be rather rough. In colloquial Chinese, can be omitted to show that the situation is slightly different from the one which the speaker expected.

一点儿 or   (a little) are placed after , in a ()... sentence.

zhè  jiàn yīfu                  tài     dà   le  yìdiănr                  nà     ge    wèntí         tài       nán       le yìdiănr

   衣服         ( (一点儿).             问题     (     了一点儿.


This jacket is a little too big.                                       That question is a little too difficult.


6. Can be the following expressions be placed before nouns: stative verb ; stative verb ; and stative verb ?


No, they cannot be used as adjectives in sentences. also gives a sense of the end of a sentence, so the above expressions are only used as stative verbs or complements of degree in sentences. In other words they cannot be placed before , but should be placed at end of sentences or clauses. One cannot say 太冷了的饭. 难极了的书. 可热了的天气.  One should say: 饭太冷了 the rice is too cold, 那本书叫他写得难极了 that book he wrote is  too difficult, 天气可热了 it’s extremely hot.


7. Can the above three expressions have negative forms?


The negation can be placed before and after , but cannot take the negative form. If the negation is used, should be left out.

fàn    bú    tài  lĕng                                                tiānqi        kĕ           bú    rè

                                            天气                .

RICE NOT TOO COLD                                          WEATHER REALLY NOT HOT

The rice is not too cold.                                     The weather is not really hot.


If appears at the end of a negative sentence  饭不太热了, it indicates change: the rice is not too hot any more.


The use of to express a change of situation


8. When do I use for a change of situation, and where does it go in a sentence?


If the modal particle is used to indicate change it should always be placed at the end of a sentence.  It can be used in the following situations.

1. To indicate a change in the weather, in seasons or in time.

chūntiān le                            tiānqi     nuănhuó  le                             sān   diăn              bàn  le

     .                          .                                      .

SPRING   LE.                           WEATHER WARM    LE                       THREE O'CLOCK HALF LE

It's spring (now).                 The weather is getting warm.            It's half past three.


As you can see from the above sentences, can also be placed after a noun (for the weather, seasons or time), and after a stative verb.


2. To indicate a change of situation, is placed at the end of a sentence.

xiànzài  wŏ  bú  shì    lăoshī        le                                 xiànzài  rén             duō   le

  在我         .                                     .

NOW       I   NOT BE  TEACHER LE                                 NOW       PEOPLE MANY LE

I'm not a teacher any more.                                          Now there are many people.


9. Are the functions of always clear in sentences?


Yes, they should always be clear. But sometimes can have many implications, with the result that ambiguous meanings are then unavoidable.  In particular, when is placed at the end of a sentence there may be a grey area where it is hard to differentiate between the for change of situation and the for completed action.

xiăo wáng    lái    le                               wŏmen chī fàn     le

          .                     我们       .

XIAOWANG  COME  LE                         WE       EAT MEAL LE  

Wang has come.                                     We have eaten.

(Completed action.)                   (Completed action.)

Now Wang is coming.                          We're about to eat.

(Change of situation.)                (Imminent action.)

Now we are eating the meal.             [We were eating fruit before.]


It is important to add appropriate words to clarify what you want to say.

我们已经吃过饭了. We've eaten. 我们就要吃饭了. We're about to eat.

我们现在吃饭了. Now we are eating our meal.


The use of to indicate an imminent action.


10. How many sentence patterns can be used to indicate imminent action?


The following are the most commonly used "frame-patterns".


1.          ..., (要快...)

2.          ..., 快要..., 快就....

3.          就要..., 就快....


The action which is about to happen is framed by these patterns. The possible elements which can be framed within these patterns are time words, verb-object phrases and verbs.

kuàiyào   shí diăn        le         jiùyào    xià    kè      le                          jiùkuài    kū     le

快要             就要           .                就快      .


Nearly 10 o'clock.                The class is about to finish.                (Somebody) is about to cry.


11. Do these expressions indicate the same degree of urgency?


Yes, they indicate the same degree of urgency. 


The use of as a resultative complement.


is not only used as a particle to indicate that an action has been completed, but can also  imply  completion, and getting rid of something by acting as a resultative complement in a sentence.  In this usage has two functions: one is as a resultative complement; and the other is as a particle for completed action.


tā  bă dōngxi dōu mài            le                            tā  bă   jiŭ    hē       le                       tā  bă  shū    rēng        le

她把 东西                                                            了

SHE BA THINGS ALL SELL LE                             HE BA WINE DRINK LE                    HE BA BOOK THROW LE

She has sold everything.                                    He's drunk up all the wine.           He's thrown away the book.



All the above sentences have a sense of getting rid of something, as with the resultative complement .


tā   bă  wăn    xĭ       le                            tā    bă  gōngkè         zuò le

        .                             .

HE BA BOWL WASH LE                        SHE BA HOMEWORK DO LE

He has done the washing up.   She has done her homework.


Both the above sentences have a sense of completion, as with the resultative complement .



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Translate the following sentences into Chinese.

 1.         Mr. Wang does Chinese paintings extremely well.

2.         It's too difficult to learn Chinese. The most difficult thing is to remember it all.

3.         The food she cooked yesterday was good, but she made too much.

4.         It's too late today. Shall we do it tomorrow?

5.         The book she bought yesterday was not too expensive, but the one I bought today was much too much.

6.         It's almost news time. Shall we watch the news in a minute?

7.         We are almost in Beijing. Now you can see the Great Wall of China in the distance.

8.         A:  This term will soon be over. Where are you going in the holidays?

B:  What holiday?  I don’t have holidays. I always work.

9.         A:  The exam results are coming out soon. Then we'll see who is the best student.

B: Just because a student has achieved a good result doesn't necessarily mean that student is the best one.

10.     I have finished my exam. I don't have to read "Practical Chinese Reader" any more!

11.     It's already 10:30. I’ll be late for my lesson.

12.     Mr. Li is getting old, and can't see properly. Can you help him?

13.     I have to fetch a friend from the airport. Can you tell Mr. Wang that I will not be able to attend his lesson?

14.     I have already told him that I don't like his food. How many more times should I tell him?

15.     Last night I did a great many grammar exercises. I'm not going to do any more tonight.