5 Using le 了 to indicate change of state
The sentence particle le 了 can be added to the end of a clause or sentence to indicate that a situation or state is new or different from how it was before:
Wǒ xué Zhōngwén. 我学中文。I learn Chinese.
Wǒ xué Zhōngwén le. 我学中文了。I have started learning Chinese.
le 了 can also be added to an adjective or to a number (e.g. when talking about age, height, or weight) to indicate change or updating:
Nĭ hěnpàng. 你很胖。 You are overweight.
Nĭ pàng le. 你胖了。 (Implication: you were not fat before.) You’ve put on some weight. / You are putting on some weight.
Wǒ èrshí le. 我二十了。 (Implication: I was not 20 before.) I am 20 now. / I’ve turned 20.
Read the following two sentences carefully. How are they different in meaning? Take notes and then reveal the discussion.
Tā yǒu nǚ péngyou. 他有女朋友。
Tā yǒu nǚ péngyou le. 他有女朋友了。
Tā yǒu nǚ péngyou. 他有女朋友。 He has a girlfriend.
Tā yǒu nǚ péngyou le. 他有女朋友了。 He has a girlfriend now. (le 了 indicates that he didn’t used to.)
Now have a go at speaking Chinese using the scenarios given in Activity 10.
How would you communicate in Chinese in the following situations?
Press the ‘Start recording’ button once to start, and then click again when you have finished your recording. Once recorded you can listen to yourself, and then compare it to the model answer which is provided in the feedback. The transcript is available if needed.