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In this sentence:

他曾经在北京学过两年汉语。

what's the role of 曾经? I understand that 过 already implies that the action happened in the past.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

曾经 is more equivalent to "once" in English as in the sentence

Once we were the best friends.

It is used to:

  1. express the fact the sentence is talking about happened in the past.

  2. if the predicate verb is a durative verb*, express that fact can't be experienced(经=experience) by the speaker(doesn't last) any more.
    , the speaker implies that the status is different now. In this case, it means "used to" as in the sentence "I used to be a kind man(implies now I am not)." For your example, the speaker implies that he is not studying Chinese in Bejing now.

*By "durative verb", I mean the action expreesed by that verb can last for a long time. For example, "study, like, look, be, work,feed, etc.". These verbs can be used in the progress tense in English(-ing form). Some other verbs can not, such as "hear of, see, kick, etc." You can't say " I am hearing of a terrible story", while you can say" I am listening to a terrible story".

Can someone tell me the right grammar term if I am wrong?

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1  
+1... speaking as someone who knows quite a bit about english grammar, that's a hard question you pose there. why not ask on the english site? –  magnetar Jan 15 '12 at 21:04

Just as 已经 means "already" and emphasizes the sense of the completed action particle 了, 曾经 means "once" and emphasizes the sense of 过. I disagree with Bob that 曾经 means already here; in general "once" or "ever" is a better translation. I would render your sentence as "I once studied two years of Chinese in Beijing."

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It means 'already', to add emphasis to the sentence - 'he already studied Mandarin in Beijing for two years'

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So is it equivalent to 已经 in that sentence? –  dusan Jan 15 '12 at 0:12
1  
@dusan could you please propose a new question to know the difference between them? –  Huang Jan 15 '12 at 1:19
    
@Huang done: chinese.stackexchange.com/q/902/13 –  dusan Jan 15 '12 at 1:33
    
@dusan I have completed my answer. 我已经完成了答案(here, I won't say 曾经) –  Huang Jan 15 '12 at 4:22
    
Bob, could you please improve your answer? Post a translation of your example, or provide more examples. –  Alenanno Jan 18 '12 at 22:16

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