So far, I've learned that 了 is an aspect marker, not a tense marker. That is, 了 indicates "the aspect of finishing a task, regardless of tense". However, during my studies, so far I have seen 了 in sentences which refer to a specific past event. But recently, I come across some sentences with 了 that don't refer to specific past events, but they refer to regular events.

So I want to know if it is correct to use 了 in such cases.

For example:

不少广东老人的每一天都从茶楼开始。他们都起得很早,五点就出来散步,锻炼身体,六点钟就到茶楼。那儿老人很多,他们跟认识的人问好。王先生每天都带抱来。 他喜欢喝茶,等女儿和小孙女儿来。他等一会儿,她们都来

As one can see, this passage is about habits of Guangdong people and the things they do regularly on a daily basis. It is not about a specific past event.

So, is it correct to translate



"(Regularly) by six o'clock, they have arrived the teahouse" (It refers to a daily habit, not a specific past event)

also, is it correct to translate



"(On a daily basis) after having waited for a while, they arrive. (and the action of arriving finishes)"

2 Answers 2


When "了" is placed after a "verb", it indicates the "completion of such act", so the translation should be:

  • "六点钟就到了茶楼" - "arrived at the tea house as early as six o'clock". Note the 就 means "as early as", it can be seen as a habitual act if stated as "每天六点钟就到了茶楼" - "arrives at the tea house as early as six o'clock every day".

  • "他等了一会儿,她们都来了" - "he waited for a while; they had all came".

  1. 不少广东老人的每一天都从茶楼开始。他们都起得很早,五点就出来散步,锻炼身体,六点钟就到了茶楼。那儿老人很多,他们跟认识的人问好。 王先生每天都来。 他喜欢喝茶,

  2. 等女儿和小孙女儿来。他等了一会儿,她们都来了。

The first part describes the habit of typical Cantonese elderly people and using Mr. Wang who goes to the teahouse every day like others as an example.

The second part (王先生)等女儿和小孙女儿来。他等了一会儿,她们都来了。describes a unique event, independent of the first part. 了 in this part serves its usual function as an aspect marker that indicates the action is completed (he has waited; they have arrived)

It is better to add 這天 (this day) at the beginning of the second part and write 這天(王先生)(在茶楼)等女儿和小孙女儿来。他等了一会儿,她们都来了。

Without the time reference, people might treat the second part as the extension of the first part and think it meant 他每天都等女儿和小孙女儿来, then it would become disconnected with the last two sentences, which clearly not describing something that happens every day

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