Chinese Grammar: 刚 & 刚才
Our Lupishu is a little confused right now. When he first caught sight of these two words 刚 & 刚才, he thought since they looked alike and shared the same meaning of “just now”, that maybe one was just a shorter version of the other. However, that’s not the case at all!
刚 and 刚才 are two words that are used in different situations. It happens, there are a few traps in Mandarin Chinese which you need to learn to navigate and avoid. So if 刚&刚才 are also ganging up on you, now it’s time to learn when to use which!
There are a few big differences between the two that will help you distinguish when to use which.
刚 is an adverb
刚 means just, just a moment ago. So when something happened just a moment ago, you can use 刚 to describe that.刚 is an adverb and is therefore always placed right before the verb it refers to. As an adverb, 刚 can also be used before an adjective. 刚才 cannot.
Subject + 刚 + Verb/Adjective
刚才 is a time word
刚才 can modify a noun
Be careful, you can’t do the same with 刚.
刚才: just a moment ago, really
刚才 is a fixed, absolute time word that represents a moment ago. On a timeline, you’d place it right before “now”, in the past. It emphasizes the fact the action took place really recently. The time 刚才 expresses is really short: depending on the situation, it’s a few seconds, a few minutes or a little more, but usually no more than 30 minutes.
To know: Being itself a time word, 刚才 doesn’t go well with other mentions of time and you can’t use it to refer to events of a specific duration.
刚: a relative moment ago
刚 highlights the fact the action took place just now, too, but in contrast to 刚才, it is a lot more flexible. The length of the short time frame 刚 refers to is relative and depends on the speaker’s feeling. **As long as it feels recent to you, you can use 刚 to talk about something that happened a few minutes, a few hours, a few weeks, or even months ago. ** Also, you can use 刚 to talk about nearly any point in time, as long as there’s context: you can use 刚 to talk about something that just happened, has just happened or will just have happened. As you see, it’s a lot more flexible than 刚才.
刚 and a specific time
When you’re talking about something that happened just a moment ago, very recently, it seems like you could use either 刚 or 刚才. Which one should you choose? This is the trickiest part of 刚 & 刚才 as each word has a slight difference in nuance.
Talk about situations still in effect with 刚
When you’re talking about something that just happened, is relevant to the present situation, and still is in effect, 刚 is the word you’ll want to use. If the action that just happened still has an impact on what you’re talking about right now, then you should use 刚.
Talk about recent changes in a situation with 刚才
In contrast, if there’s a gap between the action that just happened and the present situation or something changed since then you are more likely to use 刚才. 刚才 is perfect for situations where there was a discontinuity between that moment and the present.
So there you have it, the main differences between 刚 and 刚才. A bit much to take at the same time? Don’t worry, it’ll become clear in time. All you need is some practice, keeping these differences in mind. So, shall we go build sentences in Chinese and show 刚 and 刚才 who is head of the gang?
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