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Chinese Grammar: Time match: 一时 vs. 一度

Recently the weather has turned unpredictable. It’ll start to rain suddenly without any warning, even though it is a sunny day. And then the rain doesn't last a long time. Strange.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like that, do you know how to express “suddenly” or talk about “a temporary situation" or a “moment” in Chinese? Let us show you!

Rules

Both 一时 and 一度 can be used to express a short period of time. They both look quite similar, both beginning with . Their place in the sentence is the same.

However, they are used differently and aren’t interchangeable. So it's time for the battle of the two! When should you use which? You’ll use one to talk about something that occurred in a period of time that has passed: 一度. 一时 you’ll use to talk about short periods of time, regardless of whether they have passed or not. Let’s explore each word in more detail, starting with 一时.

一时 is a short period of time

一时 can first describe a moment, a short period of time. It also means something “temporary”, "sudden" or “momentary”.

Structure

[Subject + 一时 + Verb/Verbal Phrase]

Examples

只是 一时
This rain will last just a short while.

一时 大意弄错
I was careless for a moment and got it wrong.

一时 冲动 之下 离开 家人
On an impulse, he left his family.

一时 起来 名字
I suddenly forgot his name.

Use 一度 for a period of time in the past

一度 also indicates something that took place for a short period of time. The difference with 一时 is that 一度 only works with the past: this event must have already taken place. Also, 一度 is primarily used to place emphasis on something bad that happened. Prepare for sad examples.

Structure

[Subject + 一度 + Verb/Verbal Phrase]

Examples

一度 非常 自卑
I felt very inferior for a moment.

一度 好好 学习
He didn’t study well for a time.

一度 天天 迟到
He was late every day for a while.

球赛我们 曾经 一度 领先 。 We were leading this ballgame for a while.

You'll often see 曾经, a past tense marker, used with 一度. It's then placed before 一度 as in the sentence above.

Talk about "once a year" with 一度

一度 also has another role: it is used to talk about something that only happens “once “ in a while. It’s then always paired with 一年 to form the four-word set phrase 一度, which means “once a year” or “annually”. Always add a after this set phrase to describe something.

Examples

一度 公司 聚会 开始
The company’s annual party is coming up.

一度 篮球 比赛 准备
He is making preparations for the annual basketball contest.

参加 一度 运动会
He is going to attend the annual sports meeting.

So there you have it! Now you have a better idea of when to use 一时 versus 一度. Ready to go pick when you should use which?

See all our other Chinese grammar lessons.

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