The sentence is

(1) 突然父亲嘘了一口气


(2) 突然父亲嘘一口气

I would have understand them if it's not the for the "突然" part.

My take:

  • (1) "Suddenly father exhaled (once)" (like "ooooh" and then maybe died).
  • (2) "Suddenly father started to perform an exhale." (and after he performed it maybe he died).

P.S. Sentence (2) As far as I see doesn't have niether of those readings:

  1. Conteractual. "If something happens/ed, then he has/would exhaled.
  2. Suprise. He can exhale?!
  3. Probable. Well, he can exhale.
  4. Future. He might exhale.
  5. Deductive. He exhale. (I can say that based on some reasoning)
  6. Abilitive. He can exhale.

that 突然 eliminate all those readings and I'm lost a bit.

  • see dictionaries, why not "exhale" (with verbal measure:一口气) instead of "give/perform a breath";小马词典: 嘘 exhale; hiss, regarding (1) also see jukuu:嘘一口气 2 examples: 1.便嘘了一口气 released his breath, 4.宽慰地嘘了一口气 gave a sigh of relief,
    – user6065
    May 26, 2016 at 9:10
  • The problems is of coures is not in verb meaning, but in having 了 and not having 了 with 突然 and 一口气. I'll fix the verb translation. Thanks.
    – coobit
    May 26, 2016 at 9:21
  • looking for examples of 突然 not followed by 了? 突然訇的一声, 震得山鸣谷应,突然默不作声,突然发生吵架,严寒突然来临,突然改变方向,他突然一跳, 用拳头在桌子上一砸(all in bkrs)
    – user6065
    May 26, 2016 at 9:38
  • So it is a narrative? Looks plausible, but Is that a description of a real situation or of an imaginary one? Who started that narrative and why? (You might think it's unimportant but for me this info is vital).
    – coobit
    May 26, 2016 at 9:45
  • May it be a painter who explains what he sees in his mind? I don't think it might be a news reporter. Right? Can it be a historian, explaining some past chain of events?
    – coobit
    May 26, 2016 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


Previous answer for ref: https://chinese.stackexchange.com/a/18061/13501

If you look at my previous answer, I explained:

For the first and second, both mentioned that 了 is used to denote the completion of an action.

For the fourth one, I mentioned that 了 is used only to soften the tone.

In the example above,



The first sentence is denoting the completion of the action "exhale", because indeed you are talking about things in the past and father has done and ended exhaling.

However, most Chinese native speakers use it, not to express this meaning, but the fourth meaning actually, which is, only to soften the tone.

Despite the fact mentioned, please note that you cannot use 了 after any verb if the ACTION is NOT completed.

One more point to notice: The first and second meaning of 了 are only applicable to action verbs. For position verbs(有,坐,死...), they should follow the adjective rule, which is, when confronting these verbs, th meaning should be "become (verb status)". Example: 我有了。 or 他死了。

  • 在墙上挂了一幅画? Does it mean that "a picture" does not hang now? Where is completion?
    – coobit
    May 26, 2016 at 9:48
  • The action is indeed completed, because currently, no one is hanging the picture, instead the picture was already hung by someone, and that person is no longer hanging the picture now! It is the action which is completed, it does not mean that the picture(object) cannot keep its status of being hung.
    – user13501
    May 26, 2016 at 9:51
  • I thought this statement was about "There is something on a wall" and not about "Someone hanged a picture on a wall". Can my and your readings be correct simultaneously?
    – coobit
    May 26, 2016 at 9:57
  • I don't quite get you. Did you mean if 在墙上挂了一幅画? can be translated to "There is something on a wall"? I think another translation will be "There is something being hung on a wall", which should require someone to do it.
    – user13501
    May 26, 2016 at 9:59
  • Yes. Can it? Are you sure my translation "that a thing just hangs there" is 100% inaccurate? Thanks for your help by the way :)
    – coobit
    May 26, 2016 at 10:01

突然 … V [expressing change of state] => 了 + object.

  • So? How do you translate those sentences? In what context each could have been used?
    – coobit
    May 26, 2016 at 20:27
  • Only the first can be used. You have to use 了 in state changes.
    – user4452
    May 27, 2016 at 5:03

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