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Past, Present and Future Tenses in Mandarin Chinese – How to Recognize?

Mandarin grammar is an essential part that you need to master when you are learning Chinese language. However, unlike English, the form of a Chinese verb never changes, regardless of whether it is present, past or future tense. So it is quite difficult for some Chinese beginners to recognize them. In this article, I will teach you what is Mandarin future tense, present tense and future tense, and how to recognize them.

1. Chinese Past Tense

Chinese past tense, just like English, is used when the thing you are describing happened in the past. There are some characters in the sentence that will prompt you, such as:

Chinese: 我昨天去医院了。 Pinyin: wǒ zuó tiān qù yī yuàn le。

This sentence means I went to hospital yesterday. zuó tiān means yesterday.

Chinese: 我吃过早饭。Pinyin: wǒ chī guò zǎo fàn le

In this kind of sentence, the particle “le” will be added at the end of the sentence in order to indicate the completion of an action.

Except for “zuó tiān” “le”, there are also some other characters to indicate the tense of the sentence such as “qù nián” “gāng gāng” “céng jīng” “yǐ jīng” etc.

2. Chinese Present Tense

The present tense in Mandarin Chinese is usually used to describe the present action or action commonly happens.  We can usually see some special characters that can help us to figure out its present tense, such as 经常 (jīng cháng) often, 有时 (yǒu shí) sometimes, 每天(měi tiān) everyday, 每周 (měi zhōu) every week, 每年 (měi nián) every year. Below is some examples for you:

Chinese: 我喜欢看电影。    Pinyin: wǒ xǐ huān kàn diàn yǐng。   English: I like watching movie.

Chinese: 我每天骑车上学。     Pinyin: wǒ měi tiān qí chē shàng xué。    English: I ride a bike to school everyday.

3. Chinese Future Tense

Mandarin does not have a future tense, so something that has yet to occur is expressed by using time phrases that indicate the future, such as 明天 (míng tiān) tomorrow, 今天晚上 (jīn tiān wǎn shang) this evening, 后天 (hòu tiān) the next day tomorrow, 下个星期 (xià gè xīng qī) next week, 下个月 (xià gè yuè) next month, 明年 (míng nián) next year, 将来 (jiāng lái) in the future, 下次 (xià cì) next time. For example: 

Chinese: 我明天回家。    Pinyin: wǒ míng tiān huí jiā。   English: I will go home tomorrow.

Chinese: 我打算去游泳。     Pinyin: wǒ dǎ suàn qù yóu yǒng。    English: I plan to swim.



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