Why do you use 了 after 我饿? I thought it was used to denote completion or the past tense of something, but isn't being hungry present tense?


5 Answers 5


Generally speaking, 了 following a verb indicates completion, while 了 at the end of a sentence or phrase indicates a change in state (and sometimes other things, 了 is very complicated). A common use of this final 了 is to draw the attention of the listener to the fact that something is now the case (that wasn't previously). In this case 我饿了 is saying: "I'm hungry now," and drawing the listeners attention to the new hunger. Of course, when the verb is at the end of the sentence the use of 了 can be ambiguous. Such an 了 could be used in either, or even both, of these ways, but usually context makes the intention clear.

More general information on 了 can be found here: http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/Uses_of_%22le%22


了 has a lot ussages, one of which is to indicate the completion of an action or of a status change.

Examples (indicating the completion of an action):

作业写完了 话说完了 他来了 他结婚了 演出结束了 我们毕业了 etc.

Examples (indicating the completion of a status change):

天亮了 (status of sky changing from dark to bright is completed)

头发白了 (status of hair chaning from black to white is completed)

长大了 (status of body changing from small to big is completed)

肚子饿了(status of stomach changing from full to empty is completed)

睡着了 (status of mind changing from awaken to sleeping is completed)

我饿 is also a valide sentence, meaning "I am hungry." It shows only the current status, not indicating the CHANGE of the status. We say 我饿了 when emphasizing on the change of the status.

  • Change of state - not status, I would imagine.
    – Mou某
    May 28, 2014 at 14:37

It means a status that has just arrived and this status will last.

我饿了, 我懂了, 我知道了。

Example 1:



Mom:" You have to study hard!"

Son:" I knew it!( I already knew it, stop nagging!)"

Example 2:



Mom:" You have to study hard!"

Son:" I get it.( I know it now and I'll try .)"



Because by adding “了”, the emphasis is put on the existence of the state of "hunger" and the sentence seems more rigid.

Generally, we only say 我饿 to people with close relationship, like a baby calling its parents. As a result, this composing style can only be seen in family, between friends or lovers. Note that sociologically, when you use this expression, you are at the same time admitting that you are the one being taken care of. Thus we do not expect people to say that in business situations.


饿 is a verb meaning the state from full to hunger, i.e. become hungry.

我饿了 literal meaning: I have become hungry already.

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