The primary verb is followed by a number of monosyllabic adverbs that serve a crucial linking role in the sentence’s meaning. Since they pertain to moving forward and backward, we will refer to them as referential adverbs. In compound sentences, these referential adverbs also serve as predicates or comments or as conjunctions linking clauses, but in this section, we focus on their employment in simple sentences.
就 Jiù & 才 cái
就 Jiù means “then,” and 才 cái means “only then”; 就 Jiù emphasizes a direct result, but cái means that something only happened at a specific moment or under specific circumstances.
不到五点钟，他就下班了。Bù dào wǔ diǎn zhōng, tā jiù xiàbānle. – Before five o’clock, he left work.
他十点才到公司。Tā shí diǎn cái dào gōngsī.
我去年就开始学挪威语了。Wǒ qùnián jiù kāishǐ xué nuówēi yǔle. – He didn’t arrive at the company until ten o’clock.
他今年才开始学汉语。Tā jīnnián cái kāishǐ xué hànyǔ. – I started learning Norwegian last year. He just started learning Chinese this year.
Every time the words “all/both” 都 Dōu are used, they always refer to a previous phrase, such as the subject, a question, or a frequency expression (such as “every” with “每 měi“). It never pertains to what comes after it or after the verb.
我们都去过北京。Wǒmen dōu qùguò běijīng. – We have all been to Beijing.
奥斯陆每年冬天都下雪。Àosīlù měinián dōngtiān dū xià xuě. – It snows every winter in Oslo.
只 Zhǐ ‘only,’ generally refers to what follows in the sentence
我只去过北京。Wǒ zhǐ qùguò běijīng. – I have only been to Beijing.
我只喜欢你。Wǒ zhǐ xǐhuān nǐ. – I only like you.
也 Yě & 还 hái
The words 也 Yě” also” and 还 hái “in addition” have comparable meanings in Chinese. 也 Y often points to the subject, although it could alternatively point to the next verb and/or object.
你是学生，我也是学生。Nǐ shì xuéshēng, wǒ yěshì xuéshēng. – You are a student and I am also a student.
我也学中文。Wǒ yě xué zhōngwén. – I also study Chinese.
还 Hái, on the other hand, always refers to the following verb or object of that verb, implying an additional action or situation:
我会说汉语，还会说挪威语。Wǒ huì shuō hànyǔ, hái huì shuō nuówēi yǔ. – I can speak Chinese and also Norwegian.
他有一个儿子，还有两个女儿。Tā yǒu yīgè er zi, hái yǒu liǎng gè nǚ’ér. – He has a son and two daughters.
Note: 还 Hái also has the meaning ‘still’:
我们还在北京。Wǒmen hái zài běijīng. – We are still in Beijing.
他们还没下班。Tāmen hái méi xiàbān. – They are not off work yet.
再 Zài & 又 yòu
再 Zài and 又 yòu both mean “again,” yet they differ slightly from one another. While 再 Zài denotes anticipated repetition, 又 yòu expresses real repetition. This indicates that 又 yòu is frequently used in the past or continuous present, but zài is frequently used in the future.
他昨天打篮球，今天又去打篮球了。Tā zuótiān dǎ lánqiú, jīntiān yòu qù dǎ lánqiúle. – He played basketball yesterday, and he went to play basketball again today.
我明天再去图书馆。Wǒ míngtiān zài qù túshū guǎn. – I will go to the library tomorrow.
请再给我一杯水。Qǐng zài gěi wǒ yībēi shuǐ. – Please give me another glass of water.
As an indicator of projected repetition, 再 zài may also imply the postponement of an action:
我们先吃饭，这个问题待会再说。Wǒmen xiān chīfàn, zhège wèntí dài huì zàishuō. -Let’s eat first, and we’ll talk about that later.
晚点再上班。Wǎndiǎn zài shàngbān. – Work later.
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