My Chinese teacher (a native speaker) told me that when using "chà", I need also to use ""dào", like this:

chà shí fen dào 4 diăn. (3:50).

But I cannot find a single reference to this online. Everywhere, only chà is used, like:

chà shí fen 4 diăn


4 diăn chà shí fen

  • ichacha has examples, feed "差到", get 差一刻到五点 a quarter to five 仁爱版初一英语Unit4 ... 4:40 twenty to five (差二十分到五点) 4:45 a quarter to five (差一刻到五点) 差一刻到十点 a quarter to ten 小学英语5年级单词上下_百度文库 ... quarter 一刻钟;四分之一 a quarter to ten 差一刻到十点
    – user6065
    Mar 12 '18 at 11:51

This is an interesting question. Imho, colloquially, most of time I would say:

  1. 四点差十分。
  2. 差十分钟四点。
  3. 还有十分钟四点。
  4. 距离四点还有十分钟。

I omit 到 most of time there.

I wouldn't be against to your Chinese teacher. But 差十分钟四点 is used much more often than 差十分钟到四点 in practice. I would even think 差十分钟到四点 is a little unnatural, because 到 often goes with 就 (就到).

Well, 还有/差十分钟就到四点了, with that 就到, it sounds like something going to happen or time is up at 4 o'clock, and only 10 minutes left. It emphasizes urgency.

Hope this would help you.


chà shí fen dào 4 diăn. (3:50)

十分四點 = "(still) ten minutes to four o'clock" = "ten to four" in English

It is English grammar directly applied to Chinese language. Chinese do not usually describe clock time this way. (Although it is based on English grammar, most Chinese would have no problem accepting it)

The normal way to describe 3:50 is "三點五十分".

It is fine to say "還有十分鐘就四點" or "還差十分鐘就四點" (still ten more minutes, and it will be four o'clock) to emphasize how close it is to four o'clock

chà shí fen 4 diăn 差十分四點 (it shorten 還差十分鐘就四點 too much, sound very blunt)

4 diăn chà shí fen 四點差十分 (no one say it like this)

when using "chà", I need also to use ""dào"

Yes there's a [差(chà) XXX 就到(Jiù dào) YYY] structure in Chinese grammar

For example "差(十分鐘)就到(四點)"

Sometimes people do omit 就 (Jiù) and say "差十分鐘到四點"

Sometimes people also omit '鐘' in '十分鐘' and just say '十分' in this structure

  • Wow, I am puzzled, my Chinese is a native Beijinger. But I can see that "4 diăn chà shí fen" is actually mentioined even in the books, i.e. here: books.google.de/…
    – John V
    Mar 12 '18 at 8:47
  • I’m not sure about Cantonese, but we don’t usually say 三時五十分 in Mandarin (or use 時 for hour at all) as 時 is homophonous with 十.
    – dROOOze
    Mar 12 '18 at 9:49
  • 1
    How about 三點五十分 then? ( it is the colloquial form in Cantonese. Is it also in Mandarin?) ; 三時五十分 is more literary way in Cantonese. Actually it is 'standard written Chinese, known as SWC
    – Tang Ho
    Mar 12 '18 at 10:44
  • Yep Mandarin uses 點 colloquially. I understand 時 is literary, but I never thought about it that way because in most cases literary language of the more classical variety mentioning time would use a more traditional clock system.
    – dROOOze
    Mar 12 '18 at 10:58

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