I translated "The student did not come" as "学生没来了" but the answer was "学生没来" (i.e. 了 is omitted). This answer confuses me because it doesn't contain any indication of past action; i.e. I would translate "The student is not coming" to "学生没来".

  • Why is it that "了" is not required in this case?

  • Is my answer acceptable? What is the difference?

  • How would you distinguish "The student did not come" with "The student is not coming" in Chinese?

  • 1
    学生没来 does contain an indicator of pastness: that’s precisely what 没 is, a marker for negated pastness (or completeness). More importantly, in 学生没来了, that final 了 is not a marker of pastness. It’s an aspectual le, not a modal le (also sometimes called temporal or perfective le). It indicates a change to a new situation, and it can be used with both completed and non-completed verbs. Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 9:05

4 Answers 4


We don't say 学生没来了. I think it's because 没 itself has already addressed the tense. 学生没(有)来 is The fact of students coming is non-existent, namely Students didn't come or Students haven't come. So, we don't need 了 and 学生没来 just does the trick.

However, when you use 不 for negation, either 学生不来 or 学生不来了 is correct but with different meanings. 学生不来 implies that students refused to come, 学生不来了 students won't come(the reason is unaddressed, it's factual rather than subjective/emotional).

Note: To translate "The student did not come", we should consider the context you put the sentence into. It could be simply 学生没来. But it's worth noting that Chinese isn't necessary to embrace the tense in a sentence and sometimes the tense is implied. We usually deduce the tense according to contexts.


没……了 shows a change of status, but didn't come is just a status, doesn't involve any change. For example:

The student did not come 学生没来

The student is not coming any more 学生没来了 or 学生不来了

The student came 学生来了

He didn't take that medicine 他没吃那个药

He's not taking that medicine anymore 他不吃那个药了 or 他没吃那个药了

He took that medicine 他吃那个药了


学生没来了 / 学生没来

It all depends on whether this is in response to a question or just a bare statement of fact. If the latter, then the 了 is both unnecessary and superfluous, and may even cause some confusion to the listener.

If it is in response to a question, (on whether so-and-so is coming or not), the 了 conveys a great deal more than just about any grammatical anomaly. It implies a specific reason, (which has already materialized), why so-and-so is not coming.

The context, as always, will decide whether the 了 should be there or not.

Consider this。 Question -- "我听说姐夫有病” Answer -- “他去世了"


To correct sylvia answer "The student is not coming any more 学生没来了 or 学生不来了"

Generally we say as below: The student is not coming any more 学生不再来了 The student is not coming 学生不来了 The student did not manage to come 学生没来了(liao3)

  • while it's a correct interpretation with 学生没来liao,学生没来le is not wrong either.
    – sylvia
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 17:05

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