What is wrong with this sentence and why? I would like to have a grammatical explanation. 我们八点上课,老师八点半才到了。


了 indicates the verb is 'completed'

我们八点上课,老师八点半才到。 would be a correct sentence

in 八点半才 indicated 'reaching 8:30' is a requirement for the action 'arrive' to apply, therefore, 到 is not a definitely completed action here. That is why the verb particle 了 that indicates the verb is 'completed' is not applicable when it is following 才 in a sentence.

我们八点上课,老师七点半 就到了 would also be a correct sentence, because 就 indicates 'already' therefore the verb particle 了 that indicates the verb is 'completed' is applicable


才 functions differently in different context


  1. 八点半(才) = (only when it is) 8:30 ; 八点半(才)到 = arrive (only when it is) 8:30

  2. (才) 八点半 = it is (just) 8:30; (才)八点半就到 = It is (just) 8:30, he already arrived; (才)八点半就到(了) = It is (just) 8:30, he (had) arrived already

In Example 1. 'when it is 8:30' is a requirement for 'arrive' to happen. Therefore, you cannot add '了' to indicate the verb is completed

  • Thank you very much for taking your time to explain this. I think I understand what you mean, I am just still a little bit confused because I've encountered sentences in which 才 and 了 are used in the same sentence. As 米艾莉 has explained in the comment down below, in those cases 才...了 means "just did something". Do you agree? Can you think of more examples? Thank you again for your kind answer. – Hannah Jul 11 at 10:17
  • @Hannah See my new notes at the bottom – Tang Ho Jul 11 at 10:49
  • @TangHo So, 他8:30才到 (he arriveS only at 8:30). 他8:30就到了 (he already arriveD at 8:30). 他才8:30就到 (he ONLY arriveD at 8:30). Is that it? – Enrico Brasil Jul 23 at 21:31

Verbs taking 才 do not take 了。(https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Expressing_lateness_with_%22cai%22)

  • 才 and 了 can be used together, but it means something different. For example, "你想去吃饭吗(You wanna go for a meal)?" "我才吃了(I just ate)." Here 才...了 means "just did something". – trisct Jul 9 at 1:58
  • Thank you very much for your useful explanation. So a sentences such as "我才到了机场" or "我才买了两本书" translate as "I just...". Is 才 a shorter version of 刚才 in these sentences? – Hannah Jul 11 at 10:13

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