After many attempts to understand how the sentence is grammatically structured, I think I'll just ask here.

The sentence "我還以為他不走了呢" is from a children's book that was originally in English. I'm confused as to what the function of 還, 了, and 呢 is in this sentence. Is there some kind of sentence pattern?

The English translation of it is :I thought he'd never leave."

I found there's a "以為...呢" sentence pattern, which is used for denoting a past action that one believed to be true, but turns out to be false. Is there any other function to 呢 in this sentence?

Is 了 in this sentence acting as a sentence-end 了 (modal particle) or as a perfective aspect particle?

Does 還 indicate 'unexpectedness' or does it means 'really'? Or does it indicate/mean something else?

I found another sentence pattern, "還...呢", which is for an action that's still continuing and persisting. It could be translated as "still" added to the sentence. But that doesn't make sense to me for this particular sentence, so I don't think it's relevant in this case.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

4 Answers 4


I am a native speaker, but keep in mind that some native speakers suck at grammar.

呢 just adds to the tone and doesn't really mean much, but if left out in some sentences, the sentences would not sound natural. I guess you're right about the “以為‧‧‧呢” sentence pattern.

了 here indicates an action done, like the past participle tense. 不走了 means "(decided) not to leave". Interestingly, 了 can sometimes also function like the present progressive tense, too. For example, 我走了 means "I'm leaving". Therefore, I think that sentence may also be translated as "And I thought he's not leaving / decided not to leave." Note that even though 決定 (decided) isn't in the original sentence, I feel that it is not a bad translation because an action done is a decision made anyways, whether or not that decision was made consciously. Anyhow, I can probably explain it better if I know the context well.

還, as you said, indicates 'unexpectedness' in that sentence when paired with “以為‧‧‧呢”.

An example of the “還‧‧‧呢” sentence pattern used for an action that’s still continuing and persisting would be 我還在吃飯呢! "I'm still eating!"

  • Thanks for your reply. Don’t worry, I get what you mean. I’m horrible with grammar, whether it’s Chinese or English. Sorry but I still don’t completely understand了 here. It’s confusing me when I look at 了 here as indicating the action,不走 is done, because 不走 is a negation of an action which makes me think there was no action that had occurred in the first place. I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 0:07
  • I’m probably confuse because I’m bad at grammar and might be over thinking this .Maybe it’s better to say “不走了” could be translated or mean something like “didn’t leave.”? And where did ‘decided’ come from "不走了 “? I just thought of something, could 了 here indicates change of situation? So the change of situation could be like this: (old situation) The speaker expected the person would never leave to be true -----> (new situation) The speaker unexpectedly finds out what he had expected before, turns out to be false. I could be stretching it though... Thanks for answering. Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 0:08
  • @chinese_beginner_need_help Let's show by example. 不吃 means don't/won't eat, but 不吃了 means won't eat anymore. You are right that "decided" is not in the sentence, which is why I put it in brackets, but I included it to help convey the tenses or whatever it's called in grammar. An action done is a decision made anyway, whether you chose it consciously or not.
    – Gao
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 9:44
  • @chinese_beginner_need_help "didn't leave" would rather be "没走", I'd say. The point is 了 also can have a function of indicating a change in the situation. Or at least I remember so from a Grammar lesson some time ago. So 不走了 means he's not leaving but implies some kind of change in the situation, for example it could be a decision of the person who is subject of 不走了. This page may help you figuring this out. What it doesn't tell you is that if you add a second 了 at the end of 他在北京住了两年, it adds the info that the person is still living there, whereas…
    – MickG
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 20:37
  • …without the second 了 the person is no longer in Beijing. That does sound strange, but that's the way it is :). Let's take your phrase 我还以为他不走了呢. Without context I'd tend to interpret it as present, possibly "I'm still thinking he's not leaving anymore". Indeed there is no tense in the phrase itself. Context should give it in my opinion. In the past it would be "I was still thinking he was not leaving anymore".
    – MickG
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 20:39

1.我还以为他不走了呢! 2.我还以为他不走了! 3.我以为他不走了呢! 4.我以为他不走了。

"我还以为他不走了呢" which means"我以为他不走了"can be translated "I thought he'd not leave."In this sentence,we use"还"and"呢"to emphasize,which as you mentioned,indicated ‘unexpectedness’.

"还……呢"means emphasis.It can indicate more than unexpectedness.

Here some examples.

-我还没吃过呢! -I haven't eat yet.

“了”is a perfective aspect particle.Otherwise,“我还以为他不走呢”could be misunderstanded as "i thought he would never walk"(he would drive).

  • Thanks for your reply. But I’m still not totally clear with 了 in this sentence. I read that perfective aspect particle is indicating a completed action in a certain time frame. Like what I said in the other reply, it’s throwing me off that 了 is indicating 不走 is done, but because it’s a negation of an action, it makes me think that there was no action that had occurred in the first place. I’m probably confuse because I’m horrible at grammar, whether it’s Chinese or English, so I might be overthinking it. Maybe it’s better to say “不走了” could be translated or mean something like “didn’t leave.”? Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 0:31
  • @chinese_beginner_need_help "我还以为我/你/他……了呢"√ "我还……呢"√ BUT, "我还以为我/你/他……呢"× "我还……了呢"× In fact,we Chinese lack sense of grammatical tense.In this particular case,we just don't use these sentence patterns.Although there is such thing like "了"means done and"着""在"means doing. Here some examples to prove my point. 我还以为你不爱我了呢。我还以为你去上班了呢。 我还没吃完呢.我还在洗澡呢。
    – Shirlltic
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 13:39
  • @ Shirlltic My apologies for the very late reply. I will be able to log in and reply quicker now. Please bear with me as I try to gather what I learn into a summary. Thanks. (1)So "以為...呢" is a sentence pattern denoting a past action that one believed to be true, but turns out to be false. (2)When you add 还 to the sentence pattern, it is emphasizing this sentence pattern. (3)But just "还……呢" can still be use for emphasis. (4)了 for the sentence in question, is use to indicate an action (or decision in this case) is done. Although I'm unsure about why "我还……了呢" isn't allow. Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 6:03

“不...了” means "not anymore".

  1. "不+verb+了" example: “我不吃了” means "I don't want to eat anymore".

  2. "不+adj+了" example: “我不饿了” means "I am not hungry anymore".

For “不走了”, it actually has two different meanings.

scenario one: You and your friends were hiking. After a two-hour walk, you felt tired and decided to have a rest. One of your friend asked:"你怎么不走了?"(Why do you stop walking?)(In this case, "我不走了" means "I don't want to walk any more")

scenario two: Your friend got a work offer from a company in New York and he was planning to leave this Monday. On Monday morning, he came and told you:"我不走了."(I'm not leaving/I decide to stay) (In most case, 我/他/她+不+verb+了 means I/he/she was doing something, but now I/he/she don't/doesn't want to do it anymore. But in this case of "不走了", it doesn't mean "leaving" has happened. It just means I/he/she was planning to leave but now decide to stay. )

“我以为他不走了” means "I thought he's not leaving" “我还以为他不走了” means "I thought he's not leaving (but now I realize that he is leaving)"

"我还以为他不走了呢" has the exact same meaning as "我还以为他不走了". You can just ignore the nuance between these two sentences.


As far as I know, 不...了 means "not...anymore".

So I guess the sentence should be "I still thought he wasn`t leaving anymore".

  • Thanks for replying. But I think with the added “anymore”, it makes me think that the “leaving” had happen before but now it’s discontinue, which isn't the case for this sentence. Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 0:15
  • @chinese_beginner_need_help It's not that the "leaving" had happened before. As Gao Weiwei mentioned above, it's just the change in decision, as in "我本来想走,但现在不走了 - I wanted to leave, but now I'm not leaving anymore". Anyway, I'm not native, this is just a point of view from a Chinese student who has been studying Mandarin for 9 years so far. Cheers Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 14:42

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