I remember reading that some verbs don't accept 了 or 过.

Side question: When I use a word like 昨天 or 以前 do I use 了 or is it redundant? e.g. 昨天我去买了一台电脑 or 昨天我买一台电脑

  • I don't know any verb that doesn't accept 了 or 过. "昨天我去买了一台电脑" is correct – Tang Ho Aug 14 '16 at 23:57
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    cf."实用现代汉语语法"关于动词成句的问题|五、下列动词后一般不能用动态助词"了"、"着"、"过"或补语(但句末可以用动态(就是语气?)助词"了"):1。关系动词"是"、"作为"等;2。表示使动意义的"使"、"叫"、"让"等;3。能愿动词;4。"觉得"、"显得"、"以为"等动词不能用动态助词和补语;"知道"、"认识"、"明白"、"承认"和"有"不能补语,通常也不用动态助词,但表示"由不知道到知道"、"由无到有"这一改变时,可以用"了"。例如:(1)他又有了一个新的女朋友。比较:他有女朋友,我没有女朋友。(2)昨天在晚会上他认识了很多人。比较:这个人我认识。(3)他刚才承认了这件事是他干的。(意思是"以前他不承认")比较:他承认这件事是他干的。 – user6065 Aug 15 '16 at 1:18
  • See my answer: chinese.stackexchange.com/a/18061/13501 – 超酷爆帅型头暖男 Aug 17 '16 at 9:35
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    If you use 昨天 without 了, it sounds like: When I was going to buy a computer yesterday, (something happened). – user23013 Nov 6 '16 at 9:59

过 and 了 are aspect markers, and can be used with any verbs, including 过 and 了 themselves.

过 is the experential aspect, indicating that an event has taken place (or the negation thereof), regardless of timeframe (there is no tense in Chinese). 我去过巴黎二十次。 (I have had the experience of visiting Paris twenty times.) 我没去过越南。 (I have not had the experience of going to Vietnam.) 我从来没看过电影。 (I have never had the experience of seeing a movie.)

了 is the perfectative aspect, indicating that an event has been completed, again regardless of time. 我买了个新脚踏车。 (I have bought a new bike.) 吃了饭以后可以逛逛街。 (We can go for a walk after we have finished eating [future]).

Both aspects can be expressed simultaneously: 我吃过了。 They can also be used with other complemented verbs: 我看得见过了。

Aspects can be used with any verb. The only restriction is context and combining conflicting aspects. For example, using durative 着 with completion aspects 过 and 了 makes no sense.

As for your side question: since there is no tense in Chinese, it does not matter in which time frame these aspects are used. The use of 昨天 or 以前 indicates the time, whereas 过 and 了 indicate completion, regardless of time.

  • re:"在了" Does NP+在了+NP exist? As is easy to check V/A+在了NP occurs frequently,e.g. jukuu: 这种推断是错误的,错在了多个方面,都花在了更换刹车方面,伞兵部队空投在了西奈半岛,汽车停在了汽车站,这堆书倒在了地板上,他的小腿 绊在了床柱上.(It also seems 了 could not be replaced by the other aspect particles 过.着) It seems *他在了家,*在了位(*=ungrammatical) cf. 他回了家 ,V+在+NP,cannot generally be transformed to V+在了+NP,e。g。in 呆在家里,留在家里,他住在他家。Thus it seems that V/A+在了NP only exists for some V/A even though V/A+在+NP may exist. V/A must act in the direction into or onto NP (even in the case of 错在了多个方面?) – user6065 Aug 16 '16 at 19:16

(A bit late for this, but... how I wish to gain reputation! ^ ^ )

I think the distinction is a soft one, rather than compulsory. When you stress you have done something and there is some action or change in the process, use . When you stress you have completed doing something, use ; it is somewhat like perfection, but see below.

For brevity, call


(a) is okay but rare, sounds a bit dry. It reminds me of a very formal narrative without sentiment (in a fiction), or a formal speech.

(b), however, is very common. It occurs to me German usage of auxiliary haben "have" (or sein for a group of verbs such as gehen and kommen) is also soft: it does not strongly stress perfection, but loosely equivalent to English past tense.

(c) is okay but somewhat dubious, probably because occurs within a short moment, and little is "taking place". But consider the context: You and your friends are talking about a computer sales in that store who is very bad-tempered, and you say, 昨天我去買過一台電腦,店員真的好兇啊! you are stressing you really have seen him, and he is really bad-tempered. This is perfect. You have tried something, and found something new.

I can think of a good example: as of (following Enrico's example), one usually says 我愛他, but it is odd to say 我愛過他. Why? because it changes little visible to "love" someone. But does it have its own appropriate context? yes! Consider: A and B are talking about C. Now A reveals to B that A and C once had a relationship, but broke up. Still somewhat remorseful, A remarks: 我愛過他 It is appropriate then. (as a side remark, is so formal-sounding and really uncommon in spoken Mandarin, no matter parental love or romantic love....at least in Taiwan I think.)


Many of my students have this question. And what you are trying to ask is not which verbs don't use 了, but which verbs don't use 了 to express past tense.

Basicaly Mandarin "separates" verbs into action verbs and stative verbs. So, any verb that is not an action, for example, 有 是 在 etc don't express past tense using 了.

Here's a small list. Since I'm not a native speaker, I'm not sure what is an action or not in Chinese. Hopefully someone can help us make a more detailed one:

"mental" verbs: 知道、喜欢、爱、etc.
modal verbs: 应该、要、会、能、可以、etc.

If the above verbs take 了, it indicates a change of state. For example:
我是大学生了。 I'm a graduate student now.

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    assuming Q only concerns "了"as 动态助词 not 语气助词,cf。"实用现代汉语语法"动态‌​助词|一、动态助词"了"2。状态动词与动态‌​助"了"|状态动词不表示动作,而表示一种状‌​态。这种状态有起点、可以持续,没有终点,或‌​语言表达不关心其终点。如"饿"、"生气"、‌​"累"、"困"、"病"、"醉"等。状态动词‌​用上"了",表示状态出现。例如:(1)为了‌​帮你打毕业论文,他已经累 三天了。这个句子的意思是"累"的状态已经‌​出现,而且还在持续。(2)老师病 三天了。这个句子与上面的句子一样,表示"‌​病"的状态已经出现,持续了"三天",而且还‌​在持续。某些形容词,如"高兴"、"贵"、"‌​红"、"亮"也有类似的用法。例如:(3)在‌​会上,他的脸红 一阵子,又白了,白 一阵子,又红起来,真是如坐针毯。这个句子‌​中"红了一阵"、"白了一阵"中的"了"都表‌​示状态结束。 – user6065 Aug 16 '16 at 20:39

昨天我去买了一台电脑 is correct. When you use chinese sentenses which have a meaning similar to English sentence of present perfect or past perfect, 过 or 了 should always be used.

eg. 我通过了这次考试。I have passed the exam.

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