How can I answer the question "你什么时候开始学中文的?" I cannot answer the "什么时候" questions. Can anybody help me please?

  • In my view, the "的" implies that the studying had already started and the question is when. Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


'什么时候' = 'what time' = 'when'

You can answer with one of the following:

  1. [Since the time of ]. E.g. "Started since 2016" (從 2016 年開始)

  2. [from a length of time ago]. E.g. "Started from five years ago" (五年前开始)

Q: "你什么时候开始学中文的?"

A: "我是從2016年開始学中文的"/ "我是五年前开始学中文的" (long version)

A: "從2016年開始"/ "五年前开始" (short version)

A: "2016"/ "五年前" (shortest version, just state a year or a length of time ago)

More example of '什么时候' question:

Q: 你什么时候吃晚飯的?

A: 晚上七時 (a time) If the question is about what is the regular time you have dinner'

A: 三小時前 (a length of time ago) If the question is about what specific time you ate your dinner tonight

  • In your view is 几时 more appropriate than 时候 in the specific context of the question? As in 你几时开始学中文的? Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 7:28
  • I would say 几时 is a more colloquial form of 什么时候. e.g. 我几时叫你做笨蛋了? = 我什么时候叫你做笨蛋了?
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 7:35
  • I asked because normally it is "when", i.e. a certain date when a person starts learning a language, not "what time" as 什么时候 would mean. Unless of course the context is clear that a specific time is asked for, like what time your Chinese language classes start. Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 7:39
  • @Wayne Cheah Now you mentioned it, 几时 seems more specific and 什么时候 is more general. Meaning 明天 or 十二點 can be the answer to 什么时候出發; and 十二點 would be the better answer to 几时出發
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 8:03


When did you start learning Chinese?


When will you start learning Chinese?


Answer the same as you do in your language: if someone asks about time, name a time in your answer!


Possible answers:

下周一。 Next Monday.

下年八月。 Next year in August.

在冬季。 In winter.

从来没学过。 I never studied Chinese.

我不用学啊,我就是中国人! Don't need to study, I'm Chinese!

  • The question is followed by a , means it is asking about a fact in the past. So the answer should not be a time in the future. Also, 下年 is technically wrong, it should be 明年 as the next year. 下半年 is valid, though. It means the second half of this year.
    – Hao Wu
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 4:58
  • 1
    You are right! Thank you for telling me, I get carried away sometimes and forget to think clearly!
    – Pedroski
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 12:38

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