Chinese Grammar: Expressing experience with 过
Lupishu's starting to get comfortable in the Nincha village. He's tasted and tried all sorts of things with the help of his friends. He's eager to talk about everything he's experienced so far and to be able to proudly show he's done it, but he lacks a crucial word to do so: 过(guò)! He thought at first that he could use 了 to talk about his completed actions, but Yocha told him it didn't work for past experiences. Instead, Yocha said, it's time to get to know another "helper" word, that is great to talk about actions in the past, and experiences: 过!
过: a widespread word to talk about actions in the past
Just like 了，过 is a tiny word you'll see and hear everywhere in daily conversations among Chinese people. They also share the same ability to indicate actions in the past. The similarities stop there, however, and the way you use both words to talk about actions in the past is very different.
Do you know anything about this new tiny and useful word? If not, don’t worry! Let’s see how and when to use 过 to express experience in Chinese.
Structure V + 过
过 is always used after a verb to indicate that an action has been done at least once before, without specifying a particular time.** In other words, you can see the pattern V+过 as a way to indicate you “have done something”.
In English, if you're asking a question and trying to figure out if someone has ever done something before, we tend to use the words "ever" and "before." In Chinese, 过 (guò) alone expresses this, without the need for additional words.
过 as such is great to talk about the first time you've ever done something and to talk about things you've experienced.
过 is always placed right after the verb; just like 了 is when it expresses a completed action. The verb and 过 form a pretty tight couple, so any objects that come along need to be placed after 过, like so:
Verb +过 + Object
As you can see, the object cannot be placed between the verb and 过; the pair will not tolerate that.
This is how you use 过 in an affirmative sentence. Perhaps you're wondering how to use 过 to talk about something you “haven't done”. Rest assured, it's totally easy! All you need to do is to add the negation word **没 ** before the verb, and ta-da! You can talk about all the things you haven't done (but are on your bucket list, we hope!).
Faced with the words 了and 过, Lupishu still feels a bit puzzled because sometimes he can’t distinguish one from another. How about you? Interested in learning more about the difference between 了 and 过? Alright, let's go!
-过 usually means that you have done something before in your life, as in:
-了, on the other hand, indicates that the action is over. For example:
As you can see, the two words convey two different ideas. The first one, 过 indicates you've experienced this at some point in your life. 过, in short, is great to talk about all the things you've done, the places you've already been to, and all your firsts.
Once you're done experiencing it for the first time, then 了 takes over so you can talk about all the other times you've done it, while giving a more explicit indication of when you did it.
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