I am used to hearing phrases like this:


To say "I lived here [before]", however, it seems you can't use 了 at all:


Why is this not "以前我住了在这儿"? Is there a formal reason why 了 is inappropriate to use here?

3 Answers 3


This will not answer your question but shed some light to the mystery of the 了 particle.

了 does not mean past tense. It denotes **CHANGE**.

以前我住在这儿。 This sentence points out no change. It only says that once you were living there.

Your friend calls from the kitchen: 吃饭了! This one points out a change, namely that we are ready to eat the meal. It is not past tense, it's in the present, but a change has occured, so wo use 了.

行了! You can use this sentence to say 'Fine with me!'. There is absolutely no past tense here, it just says that I have made up my mind, so now we have a change from the previous undecided situation to one with a resolution.


Stop quarreling! Here you see, an imperative really has nothing to do with past tense, yet there is a 了 in the sentence because the speaker orders the ones he/she speaks to, to make a change from quarreling to silence.


了 is a particle for completed action, similar to the perfect tense in English. Your sentence is in the simple past tense with no special emphasis on completion, or finishing of an action, so 了 is not necessary here.

Compare these two sentences:

以前我住在这儿。 I lived here before.

我在这儿住了五年了。 I have lived here for 5 years (already).

  • 2
    "外国人实用汉语语法": the aspectual particle 了 can not be suffixed to verbs that do not indicate action or change。 Verbs of the following kinds can not take the particle 了 (1)Verbs which express an action not to be completed in a short time such as 爱、恨 企图、羡慕、想念、反对,etc。 (2)Verbs which do not express an actual action such as 象、是、在、叫做、etc。 (3)Verbs which take before them an auxiliary verb。
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 0:16

1st,you can't say 以前我住了在这儿. but you can say 以前我住在这儿,以前我住这儿,以前我住过这儿,

compare this: 以前我住"了"这儿.(wrong) , 以前我住"过"这儿.(right)

it must be Language habits.


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