Before/after/when

In order to say “before /after/when”, we can use the words: 以前(yǐ qián)/以后(yǐ hòu)/的时候(de shí hou)at the end of the first clause. The pattern is: S + V-O + 以前/以后/的时候, …

Whereas in English we can reverse the order of the two clauses, in Chinese the clause containing “before /after/when” must come first.

1. 以前 = before

S V-O 以前
chīfàn yǐqián, yào xiān xíshǒu.
吃饭 以前, 要 先 洗手。

One should wash his/her hands before eating.

dēnglù wǎngzhàn yǐqián, yào xiān zhùcè yígè zhànghào.
登录 网站 以前, 要 先 注册 一个 账号。

Before logging into the website, you need to register an account.

2. 以后 = after

S V-O 以后
huíguó yǐhòu, zhǎole yífèn búcuòde gōngzuò.
回国 以后, 找了 一份 不错的 工作。

She got a good job after returning from overseas.

dàojiā yǐhòu, jiù gěinǐ fā duǎnxìn.
到家 以后, 就 给你 发 短信。

I will send you a text message as soon as I get home.

3. 的时候 = when, while, during

S V-O 的时候
zǒulù deshíhou, bié wánshǒujī.
走路 的时候, 别 玩手机。

Don’t play with your phone while you are walking.

líkāi bàngōngshì deshíhou, jìdé guāndēng.
离开 办公室 的时候, 记得关灯。

Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the office.

kāichē deshíhou, huì jìhǎo ānquándài.
开车 的时候, 会 系好 安全带。

I will fasten the seat belt when I’m driving.

4. Time-When words can also precede (以)前 = ago and (以)后 = after.

Time-When (以)前/ (以)后
liǎngnián yǐqián wǒ láiguò zhōngguó.
两年 以前 我 来过 中国。

I visited China two years ago.

liǎnggèyuè yǐhòu wǒmen jiù fàngjiàle.
两个月 以后 我们 就 放假了。

We will be on holiday in two months.

shífēnzhōng yǐhòu gōngjiāochē jiù láile.
十分钟 以后 公交车就来了。

The bus came after ten minutes.

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