Difference between 就 and 才

It is often difficult at first to know how to use and correctly. The important point to notice is that the difference between them is often not one of meaning but of emphasis.

1. 就 emphasizes faster than expected,才 emphasizes slower than expected.

tā liǎngfēnzhōng jiù chīwán fàn le.

她 两分钟 吃完 饭 了。

wǒ liǎngtiān jiù bǎ zhèběnshū kànwán le.

我 两天 把 这本书 看完 了。

wǒ yíɡè xīngqī hòu cái shōudào kuàidì.

我 一个 星期 后 收到 快递。

zuòchuán hěnmàn, yào yígè duō yuè cái dào ōuzhōu.

坐船 很慢,要 一个 多 月 到 欧洲。

2. 就 emphasizes earlier than expected (= as early as ...). 才 emphasizes later than expected (= not until)

tā wǔsuì jiù shàng xiǎoxué le.

他 五岁 上 小学 了。

yéye měitiān wǔdiǎn jiù qǐchuánɡ le.

爷爷 每天 五点 起床 了。

tā shíwǔsuì cái jiàndào fùmǔ.

她 十五岁 见到 父母。

wǒmēn língchén yīdiǎn cái dào jiā.

我们 凌晨 一点 到 家。

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