Hi there!

I noticed quite a lot of confusions and misunderstandings when it comes to usage of the particle Le 了, and most Chinese learners end up adding the word in almost every of their sentences.

Let's take a look at the variation of forms of 了 including particle, verb, adverb, liao and le, etc!

There are some examples for each of the usage of the word "了". So if you need an answer when do we use “了" try reading this post, ask any questions regarding the post, I'll try my best to answer you.

Try to read through them and ask questions if any of them question are crawling in your mind, Thanks!


拼音:le,liǎo,  部首:乛  笔划:2    

Basic, General explanation of meaning.

明白,知道:(Understand, To know) 明了一目了然

完结,结束:(End, Finish) 完了了结

在动词后,与“不”、“得”连用,表示可能或不可能:(placed after verb, to indicate the possibility of doing something) 看不了办得了。 can't see. (task/work) possible to do.

与“得”、“不得”前后连用,表示异乎寻常或情况严重:(placed before/after "得" and "不得" to show unusualness or serious condition) 那还了得! --That's outrageous!

放在动词或形容词后,表示动作或变化已经完成:(placed after verb or adjectives to indicate the completeness of an action or changes) 写完了。--finished writing. 

助词,用在句子末尾或句中停顿的地方,表示变化,表示出现新的情况:(adverb, used at the end of the sentence or the pause of a sentence, to show changes, where a new circumstances arises)  刮风了。 --It's getting windy


detailed explanations;

【助】 (Particle)
用在动词或形容词后,表示完成〖used after the verb or adj. to indicate completion〗。

如:我已经把功课做完了。I have already completed my homework.

【语气】 (tonation)
表示肯定语气〖indicates future certainty〗。

如:明天又是星期一了 --It's monday again tomorrow ;

要过新年了,大家都很高兴。-New year is just around the corner, everybody is happy.

表示促进或劝止〖indicates the speeding up or stopping〗。如:快躲了;别吵了!闪开了!
表示感叹语气〖indicates interj.〗。如:好了!别闹了!



【副】 (Adverb)
used after a verb as a complement with“得”or“不”to indicate possibility or finality〗。

如:办得了 It's possible to be done ;你来得了来不了?  Can you come or can you not come?



Usage and examples of 了 as Aspect Particle and Modal Particle

1. 了 as Aspect Particle (动态助词)

  • When the particle 了 (le) is added after a verb, it is known as “aspect particle”.

    Verb +了

  • The aspect particle 了 expresses the completion of an action. A completed action may take place in the past, present, or future and a time word or phrase is used to express this.


    1. He drank two cups of tea.
    le liǎng bēi chá

    * The 了 here is used to modify 喝 (drink) into an action which has already been completed.

    2. I bought a bicycle.
    mǎi le liàng xíng chē

    * The 了 here is used to modify 买 (buy) into an action which has already been completed.

  • 3. I bought the plane tickets.
    mǎi dào le piào

    * The aspect particle 了 should be placed after the complement of result 到.

    4. Did you buy some?
    mǎi dào le méi yǒu

    * 没有 can be added to raise a question.


  • The aspect particle 了 can also be used to indicate sequential actions.

    1. I’ll pick you up after I finish my dinner.
    děng chī le fàn zài jiē

    In this sentence there were two actions taking place: action 1 (eat) and action 2 接 (pick up). Action 1 吃 takes place before action 2 接, so it has an aspect particle 了 right after the verb to indicate that the action 2 接 takes place only after action 1 吃 is accomplished.

2. 了 as Modal Particle (语气助词)

  • When the particle 了 is added at the end of a sentence, it is known as modal particle (Wiki).
  • The modal particle 了can be used to express various different shade of meaning.
  • In common circumstances, the modal particle 了 at the end of a sentence denotes that the situation has changed.

    1. Now he has a girlfriend.
    xiàn zài yǒu péng yǒu le

    * Previously, he doesn’t have a girlfriend.

  • If the modal particle了 works with the adverb 太, it indicates excessiveness.

    1. This book is too expensive.
    zhè běn shū tài guì le
  • If the modal particle 了 works the adverb 要 / 快要 / 将要, it describes an action that will happen in the future.

    1. He is going to retire soon.
    kuài yào tuì xiū le


  • 了 can exists as an aspect particle as well as modal particle in one sentence.
    For example:

    1. The place looks quite different now.
    zhè fāng biàn le yàng le

    * The first 了 is a aspect particle, while the 了 at the end of the sentence is a modal particle.

-part of post taken from Minimin's article of the particle “了”

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Comment by Shu on April 30, 2012 at 4:31pm

As for the reduplication, it can mean emphasis. Sometimes, when we want to stress on something, one of the ways to do is to say it more than once.

Comment by Gen on April 30, 2012 at 4:02pm

了added at the end to show completed action from 变
it's changed, it's changed.


no there aren't any other meaning with the 4character expression. :)

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on April 30, 2012 at 10:57am

I noticed a FB friend used the expression " 变了变了 !! " .  What does this mean ?  I can only guess when pairwise translate something like " have changed changed ".  But does it have another meaning if taken as a 4 character expression ?

Comment by Gen on April 30, 2012 at 6:41am

Yes!!! Thanks for sharing!

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on April 28, 2012 at 10:49pm

There are a few examples of modal particles within a sentence here in Unilang Wiki :   http://www.unilang.org/wiki/index.php/Chinese_Modal_Particles 

Comment by Shu on April 26, 2012 at 12:55pm

Justin, this time I agree with what you said totally :)

The reason about the different pronunciation, I think it is probably  something to do with 讀音 and 語音. What do you think?

This following comes from: http://www.wretch.cc/blog/nicelion/8055949




Nice to hear from you again, have a great spring:)

Comment by Justin Yan on April 26, 2012 at 11:36am

i really think the pronunciation of 了 in 完了 & 写完了 should be the same as 我已经把功课做完了 which is 'le' but not 'liao'. well, some people do say it 'liao', especially the elderly. but it just sounds so corny, artificial and annoying to me myself anyway. idk. only personal opinion :p

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on April 10, 2012 at 7:37pm

  了结 means "to end" also ( which makes sense ).     腹有诗书气自华  will remain a joke on Google Translate unless the Google people make a change to recognise this string of 7 characters in this order as an idiom.

Comment by Gen on April 10, 2012 at 3:32pm

Yes, Thomas. the list you wrote are the bureaus,

do not mistaken the 局 itself for 了局 which the whole phrase has a different meaning.

局 is a word carrying its own meaning, and when it is combined with other words to form a phrase, it has different meanings. 

了局 is one of the example of phrase from two different words combined together.


taking 东西 as another example;

东: a direction; the east

西:  direction; the west

when they are combined; the phrase carries a totally different meaning;

where 东西 means "thing" and "east and west"

and it's very very common in describing "things"



Chinese has a lot of words and each of the words may carry more than one meanings and if they're to combine with another words to form a phrase, the phrase could have more than one meanings as well!

though through practices, readings and interactions using Chinese, you'll slowly get a grip of them!


about google translate, you can have it as a guide but not trusting on it as it is not a dictionary or a proper tool to use if you're going into intermediate studies, it may not have enough informations to support the explanations.


hope you are well,


Comment by Shu on April 10, 2012 at 1:13pm


Your learning attitude is awesome:) 了局 these two words  mean ending or solution. There is a common Chinese phrase called 结局 which means ending too. this word also has other definition which means bureaus, just like those bureaus your wife mentioned. Words have different definition in English, so do Chinese characters.

Also, don't trust Google translate too much. It helps sometimes, but sometimes it can be very ridiculous too. There is a Chinese proverb called 腹有诗书气自华. If you are interested, you can go on Google and check its translation, and then do a search to understand what this proverb really means. Then, you will  know what I mean by saying Google translate is ridiculous sometimes :)

Keep up your curiosity up!

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