So, if I wanted to say, "Last week I saw my friend in Japan," where would the location (Japan) go in this sentence?

I thought it would go like this: 在日本,我上个星期看朋友。

Is that correct or does the location go after the time?

  • Instead of 看, you should write 看见 or 见到 (or 遇见 if you two also encountered each other), because 看 alone could mean "visit" or "go see". E.g.: 我上星期在日本 前度男友 = I was visiting my ex boy friend last week in Japan, but 我上星期在日本 看见 前度男友 = I saw my ex boy friend last week in Japan.
    – user4086
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:55
  • As for the verb 看, in Chinese past tenses, a 到 or 了 (past tense indicator) is needed after the verb 看 to indicate that the verb (action) is completed already in in past. Commented May 12, 2014 at 15:36

7 Answers 7


In the introductory Chinese courses I've seen they've taught two basic sentence structures:


  • S = Subject
  • T = Time
  • P = Place
  • V = Verb
  • O = Object

Your sentence sounds quite strange to me, and I think it's because you're putting the place in front instead of the time or subject. Either of these variations sound much better:



I don't think it's technically wrong to put 日本 first, but in that case you're putting much more emphasis on the place, which doesn't seem to be reflected in your English sentence.

In any case, you're right that 在 should go in front of 日本.


The most comfortable statment may be:


And if you want to emphasize "when", you can say:

上个星期,我在日本看朋友。 or 我在日本看朋友,上个星期。



You should use 看见了

Source : Im Chinese, but not from China

  • "Im Chinese, but not from China". What do you mean? You're of Chinese heritage but grew up in another country? Born in another country? Is Chinese your mother tongue? Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 8:17
  • Yup. I'm chinese born in other country. Chinese is my mother tongue but not my native language(country official language)
    – Timothy
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 10:07

The best description is 我上个星期在日本见了朋友.

Please be aware that you should add a because the action is already done. It's like did to done in English.

Please also be aware that 见了 is slightly different than 看见了:

  • 见了 means that you visited a friend, and even had a conversation/dinner together.
  • 看见了 means that you happen to see a friend, but you didn't even talk to him/person.

You may also want to add a 一个 or 几个 in front of 朋友 to make it more smoothly and local. For example:

我上个星期在日本看见了几个朋友 or 我上个星期在日本见了一个朋友 is much better than 我上个星期在日本看见了朋友 or 我上个星期在日本见了朋友

Sometimes we could also say 我上个星期在日本见朋友了.


In most cases, the location adverbial should be placed after the time adverbial.

When the intention is to make a statement without emphasizing time or location, these adverbials should be placed after the subject:

Subject Time Location Verb


To emphasize time, take it before the subject:

Time Subject Location Verb


To emphasize location, take both time and location before the subject and keep the order:

Time Location Subject Verb


I couldn't find any authoritative reference saying location before time is wrong, but it sounds so unnatural that you should consider it wrong and avoid using that order.






They all seem OK to me.


上个星期, 我在日本看到朋友。

First, because there is no conjugation in Chinese verbs, so the time adverb is important in Chinese language to indicate the time tenses. Usually it is better to point out the time asap in a sentence. Also, Chinese sentence structure is very straightforward, which is mostly S + V + O, even in a question sentence. As for the verb 看, in a past tense, a 到 or 了 (past tense indicator) is needed after the verb 看 to indicate that the verb (action) is completed already in in past.

Also, to answer your question, 在(to be at / to be in) is always used right before the location. For example, 在日本,在家,在加州。

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