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!
To express a short period of time, you can use both 一时 and 一度. They both look quite similar, both beginning with 一. Plus, their place in the sentence is the same. So, what gives?
You'll be relieved to hear you use each differently, as the two aren’t interchangeable. So it’s time for the battle of the two! When should you use which?
一时 is the one you’ll want to use to talk about short periods of time, regardless of whether they have passed or not.
一度, on the other hand, is your go-to word to talk about something that occurred, specifically, in a period of time that has passed.
Let’s explore each word in more detail, starting with 一时.
一时 for 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”.
[Subject + 一时 + Verb/Verbal Phrase]
这 场 雨 只是 一时 的。
This rain will last just a short while.
我 一时 大意 ， 弄错 了。
I was careless for a moment and got it wrong.
他 一时 冲动 之下 离开 了 家人。
On an impulse, he left his family.
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.
[Subject + 一度 + Verb/Verbal Phrase]
我 一度 非常 自卑 。
I felt very inferior for a moment.
他 一度 不 好好 学习。
He didn’t study well for a time.
他 一度 天天 迟到 。
He was late every day for a while.
这 场 球赛 ， 我们 队 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 一年一度, which means “once a year” or “annually”. Always add a 的 after this set phrase to describe something.
一年一度 的 公司 聚会 开始 了。
The company’s annual party is coming up.
他 在 为 一年一度 的 篮球 比赛 做 准备。
He is making preparations for the annual basketball contest.
他 要 参加 一年一度 的 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?
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When 一时 is used to express a short while, it can be replaced by 一会儿, which means the same.