How can I most accurately say the simple sentence:

I have been studying Chinese for 4 years.

This is a very simple phrase, and I am surprised at myself for not being confident in which one of the following is accurate:




With regard to the first two, I am particularly confused about the placing of "已经," and whether it should be before or after the verb. As for the third, it is a different sentence structure, is it incorrect?

  • 1✓,3✓ why not also use 学习 instead of shortening it to 学?)(see grammar on complements of duration, often discussed at this site)2✗:adverb 已经 must precedeverb (学习), instead of 1 verb can(should according to some grammars) be repeated 4:我学习中文已经学了四年了。Also with fronted object (making repetition of verb unnecessary) 中文我已经学习4年了。 (it seems exactly the same question has occurred before and some claimed that 2 is correct also)
    – user6065
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 17:43
  • Please clarify that you really mean "I have studied" (implying that you are no longer studying it) and not "I have been studying". If it's the former, it is not clear what the "已经" is for.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 17:43
  • @ChristopheStrobbe I mean, "I have been studying." Does the “已经” change the meaning? I thought it sort of just gave emphasis. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 17:45
  • 1
    one more possibility (discussed at this site before): 的 can be omitted from 3: 我已经学习了四年中文。
    – user6065
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 17:52
  • see previous Q:chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/23681/… esp。comments
    – user6065
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 18:21

3 Answers 3


Basically, all of your three sentences are correct, but different in emphasis.

The sentence 1 "我已经学习中文四年了" is the best match for "I have been studying Chinese for 4 years." In this sentence, you just tell the fact and try not to emphasize anything.

The sentence 2 "我学习中文已经四年了" emphasizes "四年了". Once you said sentence 2, you would probably want to say more on the result of your learning. Like, 我学习中文已经四年了, 我现在可以用中文进行简单的日常沟通了(I can make simple communications in my daily life in Chinese)...blah, blah

The sentence 3 "我已经学了四年的中文" emphasizes "学了四年". Once you said sentence 3 我已经学了四年的中文, you would probably want to say more on the negative side (different from sentence 2, where you say more on the positive side). Something like, 我已经学了四年的中文, 但我还是说不好(but I can't speak it well) or 但我还是什么都不会(but I still know nothing)。




The properly grammatical way to say this is: 我学中文学了四年了. First of all this uses the proper double 了 structure to convey "continuation", secondly it uses a topic comment structure:

Topic: 我学中文 "as for my Chinese studies..."
Comment: 学了四年了 "I have been studying for four years"

This "double 了" structure is discussed in this online article which contains almost exactly this example.

  • 1
    Does this structure also work for questions? For example: 你学中文学了多久了?
    – pixelearth
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 20:42
  • 1
    @pixelearth yes often when native speakers ask me how long I've been studying they use this exact construction.
    – JHE
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 21:18
  • I think I've heard this too. I just sounds, well, weird and redundant. But I remember thinking that when I first learned Qu'est-ce que c'est? in French (literally what is it that it is?, but now I don't think twice about it. I'll just have to say 你学中文学了多久了? over and over until it sounds normal, 哈哈.
    – pixelearth
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 21:30

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