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Consider the following sentences:

A. 我看了一个小时书 - I read a book for an hour

B. 我看一个小时书了 - ?

C. 我看了一个小时书了 - I have read a book for an hour and am still reading

D. 我看一个小时书 - ?

Question 1: is sentence B grammatically correct, and if so, what would be the meaning of this sentence relative to sentences A and C?

Question 2: what is the meaning of sentence D? How is it different from sentence A?

Thank you in advance!

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3 Answers 3

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哎呦!Questions about tense in Chinese are fraught!

A, B, C and D are all OK. A, B, C have all happened C is over too.

For D, this little conversation:

A: 你准备做什么? B: 我看一个小时树。

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In my opinion they imply different contexts.

A. 我看了一个小时书 - I read (past tense) books for an hour. (Period. You can say anything after this sentence and the sentence itself does not "indicate" or "reveal" anything beyond its literal meaning. )

B. 我(的确)看(了)一个小时书了 - I (did) read books for an hour. (It seems that you are trying to convince me that you have read books for a long period of time. )

C. 我(已经)看了一个小时书了 - I have (already) read books for an hour. (It gives me the feeling that you are ready to tell me something like "I am now going to do something else. ")

There might be subtle differences between B and C, but these two sentences are always used interchangeably in everyday conversations. Personally I prefer using C with the additional “了” when expressing either of the two meanings above.

D. 我(准备)看一个小时书 - I (am going to) read books for an hour. (It sounds as if you are saying something about your reading plan in the near future. )

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Sentence B is grammatically correct, and it's identical to sentence C. People would sometime ignore the first 了 in sentence C.

Sentence D is incorrect. I never see people saying this.

For the difference between A and C, imagine that your mother friendly asks you what you were doing in the last hour, you might answer her "I read a book for one hour". That's the case in sentence A. However, if your mother asks you to read more books when she comes home (Asian-style mother lol), you might say, "I have already read books for one hour!". That's a more closed case in sentence C. Your explanations for these sentences are almost correct grammatically (since I am not sure whether you are still doing something when answering is necessary for sentence C. I might be watching TV but answer my mom as sentence C), but I believe we use A and C in different scenarios.

Hope it helps!

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