I struggle a bit to get my head around tenses in Mandarin, and in particular when I need to use 了 (le).
Do you have any tips, examples or resources to help me out with this?
Usually 了 is used to indicate past tense (or the completion of). Such as:
but 了 may be used for different reasons, some of which have nothing to do with past tense.
With imperatives, it adds urgency:
So, a negative imperative becomes a warning:
With certain modifiers you can use 了 to indicate future tense:
Here 要 (an auxiliary verb) indicates future tense, by implying the sense of "going to do (something)." 會 is another auxiliary verb that does the same thing, but in the sense of "intending to do (something)."
了 when used after an adjective or noun, conveys the meaning "has become"
Here 了 expresses a clear (change of) state.
了 can also be used to express excessiveness.
太 can be used without 了. If omitted, the tone can sound rather rough.
The particle 了 (le) suggests a completed action. For example,
Chi fan le, finished eating.
了 is often used in the past tense, but should not be confused with 过. 了 implies a recent change that might still be in effect, while 过 is further in the past and is no longer in effect.
You can also use it with 太 to put emphasis on something.