I saw this sentence from a text book:

Have you had lunch yet?

Does the 了 have to be right after the verb 吃 though?

Have you had lunch yet? 

I learned that 了 with verb represents tense, only when 了 is with verb. However in the sentence given the 了 is after object of 吃, which is 午饭。


  1. 吃(Verb) + 了 + 午饭(Noun) = Past tense, Correct.

  2. 吃 (Verb) + 午饭(Noun) + 了 = NOT Past tense.

I believe that the text book should've used the first one to indicate the past tense, unless the text book has some error, because it does say something like this.

你吃午饭了没有? : PAST TENSE


As I wrote some comments under, I think I should make an additional edit here again.

There are a lot of articles about the usage of 了 I've read many times since I started learning Chinese.

But I'm not really curious about what 了 works here, but whether the translation of 了 is correct or not because this one looks quite suspicious to me.

I believe it is NOT correct to consider it a completion of a specific action, when 了 is used at the end of the sentence.

I believe it is correct to consider it a completion of a specific action, when 了 is used next to the verb and only next to the verb.

From that understanding, I believe it is NOT correct to translate 你吃午饭了没有 into "Have you eaten lunch?" because 了 is not used next to the verb, rather at the end of the sentence.

Am I right about it? or is there anything I am missing?

  • both seem grammatically okay.
    – Mou某
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 13:22
  • 1
    corroborating preceding comment, particle 了 has 2 uses (1)denoting aspect (completion)(2)modal :at end of statement to show emergence of new situation,change in understanding,opinion,ideas, etc。,at end of sentence to express urging, advice or reminder。 Moreover in case of aspect and modal use,了 need be used only once, i。e。 你吃了午饭了 can be shortened to 你吃午饭了。 Also note in present case at least statement(if not sentence)stops in front of 没有。 This has certainly be discussed before。
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 14:48
  • @S.Rhee I do not think that what I'm asking with those two examples has anything to do with your explanation about the usage of 了. Please read them carefully again. Thank you.
    – Dean Seo
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:53
  • 1
    as any grammar will say,了 does not represent tense, as aspectual particle it represents completion (of an action in the past or the completion of an action in the future),tense is implied by context (at least by 没有 in this case)。In 你吃午饭了 了 is at the end of a statement,so that it has to be considered as modal particle, however double use of 了 as in 你吃了午饭了,indicating both completion and modal meaning (change etc。)can be abbreviated to 你吃午饭了。
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 18:11
  • 了 does not represent tense, Any competent textbook will tell you Chinese does not use tense, though too many immediately say 了 represents past tense. They were right the first time, and wrong the second. Chinese does not use tense. YayCplusplus, you should read S. Rhee carefully. Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 1:21

3 Answers 3


First of all, “吃午饭了” is usually used for "someone" to ask "someone" to have a lunch. Besides, it also can be meant that you already ate the lunch.

While "吃了午饭 ” just mean that you already ate the lunch.

Plus, there is no such thing like "吃了午饭没有“ It should be "你吃午饭了吗?” The "吗” is used for asking something.

  • 2
    Sorry, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with 吃了午饭没有 IMO, it means Did you have lunch or not?.
    – zypA13510
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 21:47
  • @zypA13510 Perhaps you view it with Cantonese in mind?
    – pikachu0
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 8:45
  • @pikachu0 I'm not sure. My mother tongue is Mandarin, and I still speak Mandarin mostly, even though I know Cantonese. But the fact that I grew up in Guangdong may influence the way I think about this to some degree. So I can't say for sure.
    – zypA13510
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 10:09
  • 吃了午饭没有,i think it's more for Cantonese.
    – Nothing
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 10:50
  • I've never learned Cantonese or lived in the South when speaking/learning Chinese, only in Peking when in China, and to me 吃了午饭没有 is perfectly correct and colloquial.
    – Cong Wei
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 11:35

will, I search both in Baidu(A Chinese Search Engine)

吃了午饭 :12,700,000 answers 吃午饭了 : 8,890,000 answers

But in my way , I think 吃午饭了 is the right answer. It's not about grammar,it's about language habits. PS:sorry for my poor english.


I do disagree with Ling Min Hao in the "correct" way to ask this question. Chinese is very flexible in the way a sentence can be constructed, especially in spoken language. In my humble opinion, all of the following expressions are "correct" and natural in spoken language:

  1. 你吃午饭了没有?
  2. 你吃了午饭没有?
  3. 你午饭吃了没有?
  4. 你有没有吃午饭?
  5. 你吃午饭了吗?
  6. 你吃了午饭吗?
  7. 你午饭吃了吗?

And what's more, I'd say putting 你 at the end of 4/5/6/7, though maybe grammatically incorrect, is common in spoken language. It causes no ambiguity whatsoever.

However, if you want to answer the question, you can only answer


but not

==> 我(去)吃午饭了
==> 我吃午饭(去)了

because the latter means I'm going to have lunch, as shown in the 2 alternative sentences. If you have to put 了 at the end, add 过 after 吃:


I think user6065 is right in that Chinese does not have tense. But words like 了/过 does give you the sense that the action is completed, in a way similar to the past tense or past perfect tense.

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