Let's start with an example:

A: 你是学生吗?

B: 不是,我是老师。

C: I thought you are student!

Note that C is a different person from A.

In this case, how can I say "I thought..."?

I know in Mandarin, you usually use an adverb or an adverbial phrase to express the past tense (e.g. 以前), but in this case, I don't know how I should express the past tense. At least I feel it is awkward to say 以前我认为你是学生.

Or maybe I should add 过 to say 我认为过你是学生, but I'm not sure and still feel a bit awkward...

If I say 我认为你是学生, I feel like the person C thinks the person B is lying and is actually a student. This may lead to the misunderstanding, I think.

So how should I express the past tense in these cases?

  • It is "我还以为你是学生"
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:11
  • @TangHo Does it not mean "I still think you are a student."? Anyway don't hesitate to write it as an answer, thanks.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:14
  • 以为 w/o any 动态助词 like 过,see dictionary examples (e.g. bkrs) for 以为: 人们以为我迷路了。 People thought I had lost my way,我以为你是学生 also see previous comparison of 认为/以为
    – user6065
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:16
  • @user6065 Ah you are right, in Pleco the example sentence has: 我还以为是她呢。 means "I had thought it was her.". But then why is 还 needed here? Looking up the entry for 还 doesn't get me anything related to the past tense usage...
    – Blaszard
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:20
  • 1
    it seems 还 is used to make the statement clearer, more unmistakable, users might look at previous discussions of all the meanings and uses of 还
    – user6065
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:26

3 Answers 3


It is "我还以为你是学生"

认为 (consider; think) can be in any tense

but 以为 already mean "(previously) thought"

is a common adverb with many meanings. In this case, it means 'even'

还以为 = '(even) thought'

  • Thanks. In this case if I add the past particle such as 过 or 了, is it grammatically wrong? Or what kind of impressions does it make?
    – Blaszard
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:27
  • 1
    还以为过 sounds awkward because 以为 already indicated 'previously thought' . 过 or 了 is redundant.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:36
  • 过 or 了 is usually used with some procedural verb like 我吃过了, while '以为' (thought ... [which reveals to be wrong]) indicates a lasting situation. So that's another reason why 过 or 了 sounds not appropriate here.
    – Garlic Xu
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 6:01

You need the subjunctive 'were' for this sentence in English, because the apparent state is not real, or you would not have said this.

I thought you were a student.


The idiomatic ways in this situation:

  1. 我(还)以为你是学生呢!
  2. 之前,我还以为你是学生呢!

还 can be omitted. If you want to put an exclamation mark at the end, you'd better add 呢.

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