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Chinese Time phrases Posted by on Apr 15, 2021 in Vocabulary

Photo by geralt from Pixabay, CCO

Time is the most valuable commodity. No one can create time, no one is able to buy more of it. It stands still for no one, and once it’s lost, it can never be replenished. Time is our most precious resource. We’ve already learned how to tell the time in Chinese, but talking about it is essential as well. Here are four useful time phrases to use in daily conversations.

 

来不及 lái bu jí

In our modern society, where everyone’s schedule is so hectic, and it feels like we are always chasing the clock, I often find myself using the phrase 来不及, which means: there’s not enough time (to do something). For example:

都这时候了,来不及回家吃午餐。

Dōu zhè shí hòu le, lái bu jí huí jiā chī wǔ cān.

It’s getting late, there’s not enough time to go home for lunch.

我们已邀请朋友来吃晚饭,现在取消已来不及了。

Wǒ men yǐ yāo qǐng péng yǒu lái chī wǎn fàn, xiàn zài qǔ xiāo yǐ lái bu jí le.

We have invited friends over for dinner, now it’s too late to cancel.

该怎么办啊,好像做什么事情都来不及了。

Gāi zěn me bàn a, hǎo xiàng zuò shén me shì qíng dōu lái bu jí le.

What shall we do? It seems too late to do anything.

由于情况特殊,他来不及请假就走了。

Yóu yú qíng kuàng tè shū, tā lái bu jí qǐng jià jiù zǒu le.

Due to unusual circumstances he had no time to ask for a leave and just left.

 

There are many Chinese songs with the title 来不及, many of them about lost love. Here is one:

 

最近 zuì jìn

最近 means recently, and it’s used to describe a recent period, or actions that took place lately. For example:

你最近在干什么?我好久没碰见你。

Nǐ zuì jìn zài gàn shén me? Wǒ hǎo jiǔ méi pèng jiàn nǐ.

What have you been up to lately? I haven’t seen you for a long time.

他最近进步很大,我真的为他感到骄傲.

Tā zuì jìn bù hěn dà, wǒ zhēn de wèi tā gǎn dào jiāo’ào.

He has made great progress recently, I am really proud of him.

因为希望出国留学,最近我学习很刻苦。

Yīn wèi xī wàng chū guó liúxué, zuìjìn wǒ xuéxí hěn kèkǔ.

I hope to study abroad, so I have been studying very hard recently.

他一向对公司忠心耿耿,可是最近迟到次数太频繁,就居然被革职了。

Tā yī xiàng duì gong sī zhōng xīn gěng, kě shì zuì jìn chí dào cì shù tài pín fán, jiù jū rán bèi gé zhí le.

He has always been loyal to the company, but had been late too often recently, and was unexpectedly dismissed.

 

改天 gǎi tiān

改天 means another day, and refers to a day in the near future. It’s a phrase to use when one wishes to do something in some other time. For example:

改天我打电话找你,把故事给你讲完吧。

Gǎi tiān wǒ dǎ diàn huà zhǎo nǐ, bǎ gù shì gěi nǐ jiǎng wán ba.

I will call you another day, and will tell you the whole story.

我愿意去,可是现在有一点儿忙,还是改天吧。

Wǒ yuan yì qù, kě shì xiàn zài yǒu yī diǎn er máng, hái shì gǎi tiān ba.

I want to go, but I’m busy now, I’d rather go another day. 

时间不早了,我们改天再喝一杯吧。

Shí jiān bù zǎo le, wǒ men gǎi tiān zài hè yī bēi ba.

It’s getting late, let’s have a drink again another day.

他们建议我改天再来。

Tā men jiàn yì wǒ gǎi tiān zài lái.

They suggested that I should come again another day.   

 

The Taiwanese-American rapper Miss Ko regard the phrase in her song 就改天:

 

一转眼 yī zhuǎn yǎn

一转眼 is the Chinese equivalent for in the twinkling of an eye, and it means in a flash, in a wink. It comes to describe a very short time. For example:

吃的东西一转眼就摆在桌上了。

Chī de dōng xī yī zhuàn yǎn jiù bǎi zài zhuō shàng le.

The food was placed on the table very quickly.

我一转眼就看不见他们了。

Wǒ yī zhuàn yǎn jiù kàn bù jiàn tā men le.

In a blink of an eye they just disappeared.

消息就不胫而走,一转眼传遍全公司。

Xiāo xī jiù bù jìng ér zǒu, yī zhuàn yǎn chuán biàn quán gong sī.

The news passed from mouth to mouth, spread throughout the company in a flash.

时光飞逝,一转眼我们就毕业生了。

Shí guāng fēi shì, yī zhuàn yǎn wǒ men jiù bì yè sheng le.

Time flies, in the twinkling of an eye we are already graduates.

 

好好学习,天天向上!


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