They can both mean the same thing, but is there a specific case why you would use 今 instead of 今天?

  • 4
    Why would you think 今(now) means "today"?
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 2:59
  • @TangHo means "today", now in Chinese is 现在. and now not the same meaning.
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 0:33
  • 1
    今 means now, not today. For example, 如今, 今人, 現今, in which 今 all means now, not today. 今已改之 means "Now, I have changed", not "Today, I have changed."
    – joehua
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 5:05

4 Answers 4


Literally, 今 means "present".

  • 今天 - the present day = today.

  • 今年 - the present year = this year.

  • 今生 - the present life = this life.


多用在口语上, 比较随意些.

今天 多用在书面上, 比较正式些.

Both and 今天 have the same meaning, which is today.


This is an interesting phenomenon. This kind of "pleonastic construction" is not uncommon in languages. For example, in old French, "hui" means "this day", just like "hoy" in Spanish, "oggi" in Italian and "heute" in German.

In modern French, "today" (aujourd'hui) can be analysed as "on the day of this day". In Spanish, to mean "today", people can say "hoy en dìa", in Italian "al giorno d'oggi" and in German "heutzutage", which all have the similar meaning of "the day of this day" or "nowadays".

In French, when people want to emphasise, they sometimes even say "au jour d'aujour'dui" (literally: "on the day of the day of this day").

Let's end the discussion with the first 2 lines from a famous poem of Li Bai:

弃我去者,昨日之日不可留。 乱我心者,今日之日多烦忧。

  • 李白 《宣州谢朓楼饯别校书叔云》

Sometimes you should regard Chinese as a music. We use two characters as a word to make it sound more melodious, especially the common words. "今天" is used in daily discourse (even in old days), so we commonly use "今天".

But in the old days, it is hard to write more characters, so people reduced number of writing as much as possible, forming the habit of using a single character to express more meaning in old Chinese documents. So, you would only see "今" used in these old writings, or idioms followed from old documents. If you used this single character in daily discourse, people would think "what's wrong with you?"

As a side note, sometimes "今" or "今天" does not mean exactly today, but recent days (or even years), like 美国今不如昔、今日美国乱象丛生. Don't ask why, just speak Chinese like singing a song (do you ask why a note here when singing a song?), and you'll automatically know.

  • Welcome to Chinese StackExchange, and thanks for your contribution! Melody or prosody surely plays its part in the contrast between mono-syllabic and bisyllabic words in modern Chinese; could you elaborate on that a bit?
    – magni
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 7:13

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