While learning about usages, i confronted a headache conflict between it's usage or maybe it's an error so i need someone please to clarify this issue.


If i go by it's use as action completion marker it mean it rained. while in the course this example is for situation change meaning it rain now.

does it completely depend on context to figure out witch meaning ? Thanks for your help.

  • 1
    aspect particle了(completion):下了雨, change of situation (end of sentence) 了: 下雨了, 下了雨了 can be abbreviated to 下雨了, thus to only denote completion use 下了雨 (see jukuu's examples for 下了雨)
    – user6065
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 20:08
  • thank you, but what if the verb is a one char one, isn't this case possible ? Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 20:24
  • 1
    by the way, 下雨 is a subjectless sentence, an "abbreviation" of 天下雨,thus 下雨 consists of verb + object, example of one-character verb w/o object: 他来,in which case it seems there is only one possible choice for 了: 他来了 which may thus be ambiguous
    – user6065
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 20:35
  • OK thank you for your help, chinese is easy in some part quit ambiguous hhh Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 20:42

4 Answers 4


As you say, has two common uses: marking completion (i.e., the perfective marker) and marking a change in state. How can you tell them apart?

Immediately after the verb => completed action

An example from jukuu (translation mine):


Because it rained, the road was wet.

Notice that the verb is , not 下雨 (which is a "seperable verb" where is the object).

End of the sentence => change of state


It's raining again.

Both => ???

It's possible for it to both be at the end of the sentence and immediately after the verb. In this case, it's ambiguous, and you will have to use your judgement. However, as I've shown using examples, 下雨了 is not such a case.

  • thank's, but if the verb is with one character. isn't this possible? will also depend on the context? Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 20:26

了 (le / ㄌㄜ˙) has two meanings.

  1. 放在动词或形容词后,表示动作或变化已经完成:写完~。

When it follows a verb or adjective, it's a perfect or past tense.

In this case we can use 过 or 曾经 to clarify its tense. For example,

下过雨了 or 曾经下雨了
It has been rained.

It rained yesterday.

  1. 助词,用在句子末尾或句中停顿的地方,表示变化,表示出现新的情况:刮风~。

(Particle) When it's used at the end of the sentence or as a pause in the sentence, it means something is changing, a new situation.

It's raining.


The particle 了 (le) has a lot of uses. The following articles will tell you the difference between 了 as the change of state and 了 as the action complition:

  1. Change of state with 了.

    [New Situation] + 了

    When used in this way, 了(le) is placed at the end of the sentence to show that the whole statement describes a new situation.

    For example: 下雨了 → It wasn't raining, but now it is

  2. Expressing completion with 了.

    Subj. + Verb + 了 + Obj.

    The above structure indicates completeness with 了. Notice that 了 goes directly after the verb. (This 了 is called verb 了)

    For example: 你今天早上吃了什么? → What did you eat this morning?


Mmm, 了 again :) There are common and not so common theories of the meaning of 了.

  1. The common one: verbal 了 is a completion marker i.e. perfective marker (Don't confuse it with "perfect")
  2. The now-marginal one: verbal 了 is a marker of actuality of realis maker (Chinese being purely modal language is lacking any tense catigories, thus developed a way to express "tense" by dividing verbs to real(which took, take or will 100% take place in reality) and unreal worlds(dreams, hypothesis, order, habits ect.).

Just look for my previous questions and posts, there is much explanation there.

In short 下雨了 means that the situation of raining is real. Now, WHAT it means is up to the listener!!! It can very well be translated as:

  • "It has rained",
  • "It is raining now" ect. There should be some context helping you to pick one of the possible translations.

Sometimes it is better to translate the "bare verb form of the sentence" and see what了 might bring if it were there. So 下雨 could mean:

  • a dream "it is raining (in my dream)"
  • a habit of raining ("It raining which is a usual thing here")
  • an order ("Rain, God damn you!")...
  • any other interpretation where "raining" does not take place in reality.
  • Mind you, I speak only about verbal 了. The sentence 了 in modal theory is treated somewhat differently, but not so different.
    – coobit
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 10:00

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