How to describe the beginning of a period of time in Chinese?

This Learn Chinese Online lesson will help you understand how to describe the beginning of a time span in Chinese. For example:

Since he was seven years old, he started to go to school on his own.

Before we look at the Chinese way of saying it, please review the following new words first.

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Mandarin Pinyin English Definition
自从 自從 zi4 cong2 since (a time); ever since;
七岁 七歲 qi1 sui4 seven years old
开始 開始 kai1 shi3 to begin; to start
da2 hit; since
再也 再也 zai4 ye3 (not) any more
出现 出現 chu1 xian4 to appear; to show up
真的 真的 zhen1 really; indeed
以后 以後 yi3 hou4 afterwards; later on
ma4 to scold; to abuse

 

Now, we can start by using the direct translation of the word “since” in Chinese: “自从”. Then the whole sentence can be translated into this:

自从他七岁,开始自己上学了。

zìcóng tā qī suì, kāishǐ zìjǐ shàngxué le。

The above sentence can be understood by Chinese. However, the word flow is not quite comfortable. It will be more smooth if we convert the above sentence into the following sentence pattern :

自从。。。开始, 就 。。。

zìcóng。。。 kāishǐ, jiù 。。。

 

Like this:

 

自从他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

zìcóng tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

 

Now the sentence is getting smoother and much more comfortable. “自从 can also be shortened to “” or ““. Therefore, the following two sentences are good too:

 

自他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

zì tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

从他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

cóng tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

 

You can also use another sentence pattern to express “since”, this one is mostly used in spoken mandarin:

 

打。。。开始, 就 。。。

dǎ。。。 kāishǐ, jiù 。。。

 

Let’s fit our example into this pattern:

 

打他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

dǎ tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

The function of “” here is as a conjunction to connect the two clauses. It can be replaced by other words as long as the other words could connect the two clauses similarly as “. For example,

打他七岁开始,已经自己上学了。

dǎ tā qī suì kāishǐ, yǐjīng zìjǐ shàngxué le。

 

“打。。。开始,。。。” and “自从。。。开始。。。” can also be written like this:

打。。。起,。。。   dǎ。。。 qǐ,。。。

自打。。。起,。。。  zìdǎ。。。 qǐ,。。。

 

If you just want to say “since then….“, then there are a few phrases you can choose from to express just that:

 

从那以后。。。  cóng nà yǐhòu。。。

自那以后。。。  zì nà yǐhòu。。。

打那以后。。。  dǎ nà yǐhòu。。。

 

Are you clear now? Before we finish, let’s look at three examples that express “since then …“:

 

从那以后, 她再也没有出现。

cóng nà yǐhòu, tā zàiyě méiyǒu chūxiàn。

Since then, she had never appeared.

 

自那以后, 他就真的爱上了她。

zì nà yǐhòu, tā jiù zhēn de àishàng le tā。

Since then, he had fallen in love with her.

 

打那以后, 妈妈没有再骂过他。

dǎ nà yǐhòu, māma méiyǒu zài mà guò tā。

Since then, his Mom never scolded him anymore.

 

Now it’s time for a good rest! Good night, my friends! 🙂

 

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

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