I'm learning Chinese using Rosetta Stone and i find 99.9% of the stuff that i encounter while learning to be quite logical. In fact this is the first thing in quite a while that doesn't seem to make any sense.

Look at the last two images and their descriptions: enter image description here Why does the word 了 follow the verb in the third image, but follows the noun in the fourth image? The situation in both images seems to be the same. And while you're at it, can you explain the word order in the first two images as well?

Thank you

  • Thanks for pointing this out, my question indeed seems to be a duplicate. The other one has a very exhaustive answer that is exactly what i have been looking for. Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


了 functions both as aspectual and modal particle, in the former case it occurs after the verb, in the latter at the end of the sentence. In images 1,3 the completed aspect of the action is referred to, in images 2,4 了 occurs at the end of the sentence to indicate a change(the emergence of a new situation, change in understanding, opinion,ideas, or action, express urging, advice or reminder (quotation from 外国人实用汉语语法)). In fact in case of #2,4 it could occur twice: 我买了一本词典了,她买了药了 to indicate both aspect and change, but instead of using 了 twice (to indicate both aspect and mood (modal particle use),it often (usually, especially in the case of short sentences ?) only occurs at the end of the sentence.

  • "In fact in case of #2,4 it could occur twice: 我买了一本词典了,她买了药了" Do you mean #3 and #4? Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 6:06
  • correction of answer 1: not to change the meaning 2 (not 3) can be changed to 我看了报纸了,if 3 is changed as suggested then it means speaker expresses her mood toward it in addition to noting the completion of the action.
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 7:07
  • Clear and correct explanation of the two roles. But it might be worth adding that Chinese uses aspect rather than tense. Students have much trouble learning the past tense in Chinese, and even more learning the future tense, and naturally they would have trouble, because tenses do not exist in Chinese. Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 12:08
  • 有使用者认为 "answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese" 这座右铭很可能表明讨论中这种类似基本问题不应该问也没有回答(according to some users site motto might suggest that elementary questions like the present ones should not be asked nor answered)
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 13:01

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