Chinese Sentence Structure and Word Order VII

This grammar section is divided into a few sub-sections, and will be described through a few week activities:

SP1. Basic Pattern
SP2. Direct and Indirect Objects
SP3. Prepositional Phrases
SP4. Location and Time Phrases
SP5. Adverbs
SP6. Negation
SP7. Duration
SP8. Noun
SP9. Question
SP10. Particle

SP7 : Duration

  • Duration phrases is used to indicate how long an action occurs. They are time phrases that indicate the length of time that an action occurs.
  • Examples of the duration phrases include : 两天,半年,三个小时,很久,很多天,etc.
  • Unlike English, there is no preposition associated with the expression of duration in Mandarin.
  • Pattern 1: Duration phrases directly follow the verb.
    To indicate the duration of an action, follow the verb with a time phrase:

    Subject + Verb + Duration Phrase

    Example:

    1. He lived in the United States for two years.
    céng jīng zài měi guó zhù guo liǎng nián
    Subject Verb Duration
    He once in US lived two years
    2. She was sick for two days.
    bìng le liǎng tiān
    Subject Verb Duration
    She sick two days
    3. We’ve known each other for ages.
    men rèn shí hěn duō nián le
    Subject Verb Duration
    We know each other many years
    4. They separated after only one year’s marriage.
    men jié hūn cái nián jiù fèn kāi le;
    Subject Verb Duration
    They married only one year then separated
  • Pattern 2: The duration phrase plus 的 occurs immediately before the object

    Subject + Verb + Duration Phrase + Object

    Example:

    Action: 泡热水澡 。
    1. I soaked in the hot tub for an hour.
    pào le xiǎo shí de shuǐ zǎo
    Subject Verb Duration Object
    I all one hour hot bath
    Action: 开车。
    2. I drove for 5 hours.
    kāi le xiǎo shí de chē
    Subject Verb Duration Object
    I drive five hours car
    Action: 睡觉。
    3. I slept for ten hours.
    shuì le shí xiǎo shí de jiào
    Subject Verb Duration Object
    I sleep 10 hours sleeping
  • Pattern 3: The verb repeats twice in the sentence.
    First it is followed by the object, then it is followed by the duration phrase.

    Subject + Verb + Object + Verb (Repeat) + Duration Phrase

    Example:

    Action: 等你。
    1. She waited for you for one hour.
    děng děng le xiǎo shí
    Subject Verb Object Verb Duration
    She wait you wait one hour
    Action: 开车。
    2. I drove for 5 hours.
    kāi chē kāi le xiǎo shí
    Subject Verb Object Verb Duration
    I drive car drive five hours
    Action: 睡觉。
    2. I slept for ten hours.
    shuì jiào shuì le shí xiǎo shí
    Subject Verb Object Verb Duration
    I sleep sleeping sleep 10 hours

  • Pattern 4: The time or duration phrase occurs before the verb to indicate the negation of a sentence. Subject + Duration Phrase + Negation + VerbExample:
    1. He hasn’t been here for three days.
    sān tiān méi lái le
    Subject Duration Negation Verb
    he 3 days no come
    2. He hasn’t slept for three days.
    jīng sān tiān méi shuì jiào le
    Subject Duration Negation Verb
    he already 3 days not sleep

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12 thoughts on “Chinese Sentence Structure and Word Order VII”

  1. Hi Min Min,

    In this part went something wrong :
    wǒ pào le yī gè xiǎo shí de rè 。
    她 等 你 等 了 一 个 小 时 。
    Subject Verb Object Verb Duration
    She wait you wait one hour

    I think this is the correct pinyin sentence :
    Tā她 děng等 nǐ你 děng等 le了 yī一 gè个 xiǎo小 shí时

    and in this sentence :
    tā céng jīng zài guó zhù guo liǎng nián 。
    他 曾 经 在 美 国 住 过 两 年 。
    Subject Verb Duration
    He once in US lived two years

    the “měi美” of “měi美 guó国” disappeared
    Tā他 céng曾 jīng经 zài在 měi美 guó国 zhù住 guò过 liǎng两 nián年 。

    Thanks for the very useful lessons and informations.

    Viencit

  2. hi Min Min

    Ive just been studying the chinese Sentence Structure and Word Order VII. Pattern 3, is this used in specific settings or is it just an option? and why the double???

    Sasha

    1. Hi Sasha,
      Yes. The pattern is :

      Subject + Verb + Object + Verb (Repeat) + Duration Phrase

      This is language. It is hard for me to explain the reason why it is double. When you read more, you will automatically use double repeat verb whenever necessary.

  3. I understand that subjects like (i, he, she, they, etc.) goes first in the sentence but what about the sentence structures that don’t start with those subjects?

  4. 2. I haven’t slept for three days.
    tā yǐ jīng sān tiān méi shuì jiào le 。
    他(tā) 已(yǐ) 經(jīng) 三(sān) 天(tiān) 沒(méi) 睡(shuì) 覺(jué) 了(le) 。

    should it not be He instead of I in the english translation? or change it to 我?

    thank you for the information
    it would be nice to have it in Traditional chinese, actually i recopied most of that to word and translated into Traditional Chinese.

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