Time Words in Chinese

In Chinese, the tense is conveyed by the time words instead of the form of the verbs. The commonly-used time words in Chinese are as follows:

昨天 zuó tiān yesterday
今天 jīn tiān today
明天 mínɡ tiān tomorrow
上个月 shànɡ ɡè yuè last month
这个月 zhè ɡè yuè this month
下个月 xià ɡè yuè next month
去年 qù nián last year
今年 jīn nián this year
明年 mínɡ nián next year
过去 ɡuò qù in the past
现在 xiàn zài now
将来 jiānɡ lái in the future

A more detailed time can be expressed by adding the above time words to another “small” time words. E.g. :

昨天 八点 zuótiān bādiǎn yesterday at 8 o’clock
今天 上午 jīntiān shànɡwǔ today in the morning
明天 晚上 mínɡtiān wǎnshɑnɡ tomorrow night
下个月 五号 xiàɡèyuè wǔhào next month the 5th

To state when an action or an event occurs, the time words usually come immediately after the subject. However, when want to put an emphasis on the time, we move the time words to the beginning of the sentence.

S TW AV V/VP
zuótiān qīdiǎn qǐchuánɡ.
昨天七点 起床。

I got up at 7 yesterday.

mínɡtiān yào qù běijīnɡ.
明天 去北京。

He will go to Beijing tomorrow.

xiàɡèyuè bāhào yào jié hūn le.
下个月八号 结婚了。

She will get married next month.

One thing to remember is that Chinese time word doesn’t need a preposition before it. She will come in the afternoon. 她 下午 来 (tā xià wǔ lái).

Have a question? Join us in the discussion below!