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According to my dictionary, means already or/and afterwards.

However, for the translation of

我已无法忘却。
I've already been unable to forget (it).`

seems to be a little awkward.

It seems this one is the right one:

I won't be able to forget (it) afterwards. (I cannot forget (it) any more.)

but is it right to understand the sentence as in the future tense?

2 Answers 2

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已 means 'already' (not 'afterward', which is '之後' or '以後' in Chinese ) You don't have to worry about what tense it is in, because it is an adverb.

Actually, you don't have to worry about what tense a verb is in, because Chinese doesn't use tenses for verb, see this answer: How do you specify past tense for 是?

  • To use 已 in past tense, you can write: "在三年前我畢業" (I already graduated three years ago)

  • To use 已 in future tense, you can write: "明天走太晚了" (leaving tomorrow will be too late already)

Since the sentence "我已无法忘却" doesn't provide any time reference, you can read it as in present tense by default -- "I can't forget it already"

If you really want to put "我已无法忘却" in different tense, you have to put time reference in the context that associates with this sentence.

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  • (a) 去年夏天我已大学毕业 is past perfect. (b) 明年夏天我已大学毕业 is future perfect.
    – PdotWang
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:43
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This is a very interesting question, but I did never think about it before. It might be a good example that reveals how it is different in the ways of thinking of different languages.

Question: Is it possible for 已 (already) to make a future-tense sentence? For example,

无法忘却。= I've already been unable to forget it.

会永远记住。= I will remember it forever.

The Chinese words 已 and 将 are often translated into two (or more) different tenses of English. The word is used for the present perfect tense, while the word is used for the future tense.

In English, the present perfect tense indicates that an action that happened before is related to or continues into the present. It may or may not imply its effect on the future.

In Chinese, the word is not only used for the present perfect tense but also indicates its effect on the future. The other word 一直 is more like the present perfect tense of English. For example,

我一直不能忘记她。= I've been unable to forget her since then.

我已经不能忘记她。= I could not forget her forever.

We need to remember that, there are no strict grammar rules for tenses in Chinese. If the time of the action is not given explicitly, the auxiliary adverbs can mean a broad range of time.

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