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8.8: Lesson 7 Grammar- Expressing lateness with 才 (cái)

  • Page ID
    66630
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    To express that something happened later than expected, you can use 才 (cái). In English, this might be expressed with "as late as" or "not until." This form is often used with a time of some sort, like a specific time of day, age, etc. This pattern is essentially the opposite of using 就 (jiù) to express earliness.

    Structure 

         Subj. + Time + 才 + Verb

    Examples 

    • 我昨天晚上十一点才到家。
      Wǒ zuótiān wǎnshang shíyī diǎn cái dào jiā.
      I didn't arrive at home until eleven o'clock last night.
       
    • 他二十五岁才上大学。
      Tā èrshí-wǔ suì cái shàng dàxué.
      He didn't go to college until he was 25.
       
    • 她四十岁才结婚。
      Tā sìshí suì cái jiéhūn.
      She didn't get married until she was forty.
       
    • 我女儿昨天十二点才睡觉,作业太多了。
      Wǒ nǚ'ér zuótiān shí'èr diǎn cái shuìjiào, zuòyè tài duō le.
      My daughter didn't go to bed until 12 o'clock yesterday. Too much homework.
       
    • 你九点上班,八点半才起床?
      Nǐ jiǔ diǎn shàngbān, bā diǎn bàn cái qǐchuáng?
      You start work at nine o'clock, but don't get up until 8:30?
       
    • 飞机刚刚才起飞,晚点了两个小时。
      Fēijī gānggāng cái qǐfēi, wǎndiǎn le liǎng gè xiǎoshí.
      The airplane just took off. It was delayed for two hours.
       
    • 电影七点半开始,可是因为堵车,我们八点才到。
      Diànyǐng qī diǎn bàn kāishǐ, kěshì yīnwèi dǔchē, wǒmen bā diǎn cái dào.
      The movie began at 7:30, but we didn't arrive until eight because of traffic.

    You can use 才 alone with the verb to indicate the lateness when the context is clear:

    • 你怎么才吃晚饭?已经十点了。
      Nǐ zěnme cái chī wǎnfàn? Yǐjīng shí diǎn le.
      How come you are eating dinner now? It's 10 pm.
       
    • 你怎么才来?我们等了半个多小时。
      Nǐ zěnme cái lái? Wǒmen děng le bàn gè duō xiǎoshí.
      How come you came here so late? We've waited for more than half an hour.

    Note that verbs following 才 should not take 了.

    • 我昨天晚上十一点才到家了。 <<< BAD EXAMPLE, never say it this way!
      Wǒ zuótiān wǎnshang shíyī diǎn cái dào jiā le.
       
    • 她四十岁才结婚了。 <<< BAD EXAMPLE, never say it this way!
      Tā sìshí suì cái jiéhūn le.

    [adapted from AllSet Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki, Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA 3.0]

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    Any Questions? 

    If you have any questions about this grammar point, please ask in the class forums!


    This page titled 8.8: Lesson 7 Grammar- Expressing lateness with 才 (cái) is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Carl Polley (裴凯).