1. Presumably the 了 cannot mean a "completed action" since this is cancelled out by the 现在?

  2. Additionally, if the meaning is I raised (completed action) a dog... and I still have it now (现在) - as in the English present perfect tense - why not use the particle 过?

  3. Would the sentence work/mean something different if you simply said 我现在养一只狗和一只猫 ?

  4. Are there any other verbs that similarly use a 了 after them like this that don't also mean a clear-cut "completed action"?


7 Answers 7

  1. Contrary to your thinking, "了" still has the sense of "completion".
  • "我现在养了一只狗和一只猫。" - "Now I have kept/raised a dog and a cat." - here, "了" indicates the action "养" is in the "present-perfect tense form", and "perfect" has the same meaning as "complete". Also, "了" offers a sense of time. "养了" indicates a past phenomenon has reversed/changed now - "(I didn't have any animal before.) Now I have.....".
  1. "过" implies "pass" or a thing/action in the past. "我现在养过..." is grammatically incorrect because of the contradiction of "现在(now)" and the action of the past. The sentence is correct if it changes to "我曾經(過去)养过..." - "I had(have ever) kept....". Note it is also correct to say "我曾經(過去)养...".

  2. "我现在养一只狗和一只猫" is in the form of "simple present tense". It equates to saying "Now I keep/raise a dog and a cat", which is fine to me.

  3. Not I am aware of at this time.

  • I suppose that the question then is why has the sentence final 了, which has the change-of-state meaning that you refer to in 1, moved to a verb final position, which usually means completed action. For example: in 下雨了, 了 refers to "a past phenomenon has reversed". Compare this to: 下了雨, which means that the action has been completed. As for the original example: 我现在养一只狗和一只猫了 clearly means that change-of-state. What is different about this sentences from "下雨了“ that makes the 了 retain its change of state meaning even in the verb final position?
    – Buddy L
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 17:25
  • @BuddyL "下雨了" translates to "It is raining (now), a grammatical tense of "present-continuous" or "present-progressive/imperfect". It is/can be a stand-alone sentence, as opposed to "下了雨", which needs to be supplemented by an auxiliary phrase to make it a complete sentence, - such as "早上下了雨", "昨晚下了雨", or "剛剛下了雨", all the auxiliary phrases indicate time and the completion/change of the event within the time period. Please review the difference of sentences containing "了" in the middle after an action, and in the end.
    – r13
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 20:41
  • May I ask what is the difference then between 1. and 3. - using 养 and 养了 in the sentence? Because surely both imply that you still have the dog/cat? Secondly in response to 2. can 现在 never be used with 过? As in some sense of "have you ever...?" and yes, "now (现在) it is the case that I have had this experience (过)..." or would that use the sentence-end-了?
    – Nmdy
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 9:48
  • 1
    1) The difference is the same as in English: "I've kept a dog" vs "I keep a dog". 2) "我现在养过..." = "Now I had kept/raised...", does this sound right to you?
    – r13
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 11:17

This has to do with semantics. 养 belongs to a set of verbs that is both a one-time action as well as a continuous action. Think of 养 in your example sentence as "adopting" an animal and it will make more sense. Once upon a time, you adopted a cat. The action of adopting is finished 我养了一只猫, or 我收养了一只猫, but the cat is still with you, and you're keeping her as your pet. So when you say "我现在养了一只猫。" I understand it as "you HAVE a cat now".

A couple other examples of verbs that behave similarly:


It is a one-time action. You went through all the legal procedures, maybe even had a wedding and celebration. That part is already finished, but your state of having gotten married continues.

我現在已經結了婚。 I am married now.

The verb 離婚 behaves similarly.


我現在相信了某某宗教/主義。 I am now a believer in XYZ-ism.

Your conversion was a one-time decision, but the changed status of your belief stays with you.

  • Ah ok great, amazing thank you. So similarly to my point above: I was under the impression that 过 equated to the present-perfect in English i.e. an action happened in the past but is still relevant now - e.g. "I have done my homework (and it is still done now). But that is not the case, the 过 is more "I did my homework (and it may or may not be done now)? And then in the place of the first one we can just use 了 here?
    – Nmdy
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 9:51
  • 1
    I don't think there's one thing that "equates" the present perfect in English. 过 carries the idea of "having the experience of". 我养过一只猫。I had a cat. I have the experience of keeping a cat (in the past). The implication is that I don't have a cat now.
    – monalisa
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 15:22
  1. Actually 了 is not cancelled out by 现在, In fact , 现在 is needless in this sentence, 我养了一只狗和一只猫 meaning I have a dog and a cat, but 我现在养了一只狗和一只猫 also meaning I have a dog and a cat now.
  2. raised is completed action but 养了 is present progressive, if use 过, It's meaning I used to have a dog and a cat.
  3. nope, not wrong but weird. Because of one of the meanings of 了 is already happen and still happen. It's simply auxiliary word.
  4. like 我在这了 meaning I am here now, 我过去了 meaning I'm on the way.


I've encountered 养了 before, and I feel it's an irregular case because has multiple related meanings, and perhaps you're thinking it means "to raise" here, and thus mismatched with the completion 了.

However, my understanding here is that 养 is instead interpreted as short for 收养 = "to adopt", so the 了 is a completion 了 (as you would expect after a verb), and denotes the completion of the adoption process. So I would translate the sentence to something like:

I have now adopted a dog and a cat.

In this English sentence, notice how "now" is used along with past tense in "adopted". I believe the Chinese 现在 is similar in this regard, but with completion instead of past tense; something like "I have now completed the adoption of a dog and a cat."

The others are more or less what you would expect:

I'm now raising a dog and a cat.

I [at some point in my life] raised a dog and a cat.

Using 过 would change it to the experiential aspect. You might use this if you were discussing your childhood pet or something.

  • Can I ask, why would 了 not be interpreted as a change of state here? Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 16:26
  • To piggyback on Becky's advice (to see 养 as short for 收养), you can think of it as meaning "have (got)" in the sense of "have as pet", so that 养一只狗 = "I have a dog"; 养了一只狗 = "I've got a dog"; 养一只狗了 = "I got (myself) a dog now". (Not offering these as perfectly equivalent translations by any means, but they might help capture the different senses of 了 here.)
    – Sanchuan
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 17:49
  • It's not a change of state 了 because it's not at the end of the clause.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 21:26
  • Ah amazing thank you. I was thinking that 过 acts the exact same way as the English present perfect - i.e. present in tense, perfect in aspect, such that an action completed in the past (perfect aspect) still has relevance to the present (present tense). But this is not the case, rather 过 indicates the action happened in the past, and doesn't necessarily have an effect on the present - 了 can take on this role. Is that correct?
    – Nmdy
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 9:54

The verbal suffix 了 indicates that a distinguishable occurrence of a process P is located in the time zone attached to "now" ( moment of speech).

By "a distinguishable occurrence", we mean that the occurrence is notionally accountable, which usually involves extensity. For example:

  • 1 他结了婚。
  • 1a 他结过婚。
  • 2 他写了一本小说。
  • 2a 他写过小说。

In (1) and (2), with 了, the occurrence is notionally accountable in a sense that it is possible to point out the extensity of the process in terms of result or consequence.

In (1a) and (2a), with 过, the occurrence is only temporal accountable. We are interested in the temporal experience, not in the extensity of the process.

An occurrence is distinguishable when it is... "distinguished". For example, 结婚 and 吃饭 are usually considered some kind of "must do" in Chinese communities, therefore an occurrence of 结婚 or 吃饭 is always of consequence.

Otherwise, we can also pre-define a notional accountable occurrence by means of the context:

  • 3 你有没有去见校长?- 有, 我昨天见了他。
  • 4 他的报告呢? - 他已经写了,不过忘记带来。

If the occurrence is not yet distinguished, it can be distinguishable as long as it is delimited (i.e. separable from others).

Some processes in human languages come with an ending point, such as "to die", "to cut (a string)", "to go (to a place)", "to open (a door)", etc. When 了 is used in a process like this, the ending point is usually interpreted as the distinguished value:

  • 5 他的狗死了。
  • 6 他去了法国。
  • 7 我把门开了。

Many processes do not come with an ending point. In this case, we can construct an ending point by means of the context:

  • 8 我上星期看了三本小说。
  • 9 他学了一点法语。

In these examples, the quantification 三本(小说) or 一点(法语) serves to delimit the occurrence notionally. (Note that without the quantification, we can use 过 but not 了.)

On the other hand, there are processes which are not associable with an ending point. For example, it is difficult to say *住完, *喜欢完, *知道完,*养完... etc.

With these processes, it is not possible to delimit an occurrence so that it has an ending point. In this case, the only point that is available is the starting point:

  • 10 他知道了我们的秘密。("He started to know...")
  • 11 我们最近喜欢了溜冰。("We started to like...")
  • 12 我家养了两条狗。("We started to raise...")
  • Amazing, thank you. My only small follow-up question would be around examples 10-12. How is an act that is distinguishable in the context of "now", only with reference to its starting point different to an action taking place in the present? Surely by reference to an action in the present, since that is not distinguished by its end either, these amount to the same thing? Or does the 了 here stress the commencement of the action, where the present focuses more on the internal quality of it, like 过?
    – Nmdy
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 12:00
  • 2. even so, with the 养 in question, surely the beginning of the action is less of relevance, and more at issue is the continued state of this 养-ing? However this answer was really helpful, thank you so much.
    – Nmdy
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 12:01
  • 1
    "Started to raise" is just a way of saying. It is more appropriate to call it an inchoative point which indicates the inception of the process. Processes like "to know", "to love", "to live"...etc. have the property of being "compact". It is difficult to "fragmentize" a compact process so that a distinguishable point can be located. Sometimes, a "semantic shift" can take place if we do use 了 with such processes. E.g. "知道了(一个秘密)" is not "have known", but "learned of"; "喜欢了(溜冰)" is not "have liked" but "became fond of". In any case, we need a distinguishable point in order for 了 to work.
    – KK_Tse
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 3:09
  1. Presumably the 了 cannot mean a "completed action" since this is cancelled out by the 现在?

Not necessarily. Usually, I'd just say "我養了一隻狗和一隻貓" without adding "現在". Adding "現在" gives me a sense of emphasis. I'd add "現在" as in this sentence: "我以前不喜歡寵物,但我現在養了一隻狗和一隻貓."

To me, even 養 is kind of emphasis. I'd just use 有. 我有一隻狗和一隻貓. In this sentence "我以前不喜歡寵物,但我現在養了一隻狗和一隻貓", I consider both 現在 and 養 are emphases.

Although there is nothing wrong with "你想養幾個孩子?", I would just say "你想有幾個孩子?" I remember my English teacher once corrected my sentence from "How many kids would you like to have (有)?" to "How many kids would you like to raise (養)?"

  1. Additionally, if the meaning is I raised (completed action) a dog... and I still have it now (现在) - as in the English present perfect tense - why not use the particle 过?

過 is past tense. 我養過一隻貓 means I once raised a cat (but not anymore.)

  1. Would the sentence work/mean something different if you simply said 我现在养一只狗和一只猫 ?

This sentence sounds a little odd. "我現在有一隻狗和一隻貓" or just "我有一隻狗和一隻貓" would be more natural.

  1. Are there any other verbs that similarly use a 了 after them like this that don't also mean a clear-cut "completed action"?

Your assumption - that don't also mean a clear-cut "completed action" - is incorrect. So, no answer.

  • Amazing thank you. But surely in response to point 1., the 了 doesn't really have that much of a completed action sense, since you did raise the dog/cat, but are also still raising it? Is that still conveyed by the 了?
    – Nmdy
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 9:53
  • @Nmdy As I have said in answer 3, without 了, the sentence is odd. It gives me a feeling of incompletion in symantecs. 我現在有(not 養)一隻狗與一隻貓 is more natural. Again, as I have already answered, 現在 is sort of emphasis. 我有一隻狗與一隻貓 is the natural way to say it if you want to say you still have them.
    – joehua
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 10:53





In my opinion, sentence (1) does not make much sense. If a person says so, it most likely means (3).

In sentence (2), 了 means a change of status at the beginning of the action 养. For example, 我过去不喜欢小动物,但是现在我养了一只狗和一只猫。This change of status may already have happened for a long time, but we can still use 了。

When we attempt to understand the meaning of 了, we need to look closely at the verb. For example,

你今天早晨喂过狗了吗?= 你今天早晨喂了狗了吗?

喂过。= 喂了。

我养过狗。not = 我养了狗。

Because action 喂 can be done in a short time, but 养 is a progressive action. Therefore 养了 is close to a status verb as 有.

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