The use of the particle 了 to imply completed action


Position of

  in the sentence

Examples in Chinese

Meaning in English

After verb


After first verb


After first & last verb

After last verb






I sat for half an hour.

I’ve only said one sentence.

He has sold off all his books.

Please go after the meal. or please don’t go until you have eaten.

He left after he had finished the meal.

He went to the canteen again and bought a bowl of dumplings

End of sentence*

She has finished learning Chinese.

She has gone to China.

She has gone to Shanghai to visit a friend.

for completed action is not used with:


Examples in Chinese

Meaning in English

1. negation

2. habitual action


3. modal verbs and verbs expressing feeling : , , , , , , , , , , ,



4. , ,   when acting as the main verb in a sentence

5. stative verbs

6. direct speech, indirect  speech

7. The construction

8. The clause


常常  / /






I didn’t do the exercises.

I (often) / (always) went to a restaurant (everyday) last year.

I should have gone to see her yesterday.

She loved / liked beef in the past.

I could speak ten languages when I was little.

He wanted to treat me to a meal yesterday.

I knew (as early as) last week that they were going abroad.

He hoped (as early as) two years ago that he would go to China.

I was in China last year.

I was a student last year.

I only had two Chinese friends last year.

I was very busy last month

She said a few days ago that she would help me to do the exercises. 

He sang very beautifully a minute ago. 

The shoes that I bought yesterday are damaged.

Modal particle

  The use ofto bring the time up to the present

used at the end of a sentence implies that a sustained action extends to the present


Xiao Wang has been waiting for her for ten years.

We’ve been friends for many years.

It happened ten years ago.


The use ofto emphasize an action which has taken place

After the verb & at the end of the sentence

I’ve BOUGHT the ticket.

She has already DRUNK the wine.

At the end of the sentence


Her Chinese is MUCH better than mine.



The use ofto imply a change of situation

At the end of the sentence


I am not going. (I have changed my mind.)

It’s summer now; so it’s hot.

She has recovered from the illness.

He has learnt how to smoke.

OK, forget it, we are not going to talk about this. 

This car is already an old model.


The use of to imply imminent action







We are about to eat.

The film is about to start.

She is about to cry.

We are about to have examinations.

The train is about to leave.

We are about to finish our (work) shift.



The use of to imply excessiveness





She is extremely beautiful.

It’s disgusting (to eat).

He is extremely funny (interesting / lovable).





* These sentences can also imply a change of situation. Please see modal particle