才 (cái)

才 (cái)

 

1) “not until”

To express that something happened later than expected, we can use “才” which might be expressed as “not until” in English.

Subject + Time / Age + 才 + Verb

e.g.

八点起床。(Tā bā diǎn cái qǐchuánɡ.) She got up at 8 am.

>> “八点” is later than expected for the speaker.

 

汉语课九点开始,他十点来。(Hànyǔ kè jiǔ diǎn kāishǐ, tā shí diǎn cái lái.) Chinese class starts at 9 am., but he came at 10 am.

>> “十点” is later than the expected time “九点”.

 

三十岁会自己做饭。(Tā sānshí suì cái huì zìjǐ zuò fàn.) He couldn’t cook until 30 years old.

>> “三十岁” is much older than the expected age from the perspective of the speaker.

 

Note that when using 才, we don’t use 了.

e.g.

✘ 我们昨天晚上十二点回家。(Wǒmen zuótiān wǎnshɑnɡ shí’èr diǎn cái huíjiā le.)

We came back home at 12 pm. last night.

✔ 我们昨天晚上十二点回家。(Wǒmen zuótiān wǎnshɑnɡ shí’èr diǎn cái huíjiā.)

We came back home at 12 pm. last night.

 

2) “just now”

To express that event happened only just now, we can use “才” which is similar to “just now” in English.

Subject + 才 + Verb

e.g.

你怎么来就要走?(Nǐ zěnme cái lái jiù yào zǒu?) How come you’ve only just got here but want to leave now?

看到你的微信消息。(Wǒ cái kàndào nǐde Wēixìn xiāoxi.) I just saw your Wechat message.

到机场,他就走了。(Wǒ cái dào jīchǎnɡ, tā jiù zǒu le.) He just left when I just arrived at the airport.

 

3) “to emphasize”

To add a strong emphasis on a sentence where it would be still right without “才”.

Subject + 才 + Verb

e.g.

不要你的钱呢。我要自己赚钱!(Wǒ cái bú yào nǐde qián ne. Wǒ yào zìjǐ zhuàn qián!) I would never take your money. I will make it by myself!

>> 我不要你的钱。我要自己赚钱!(Wǒ bú yào nǐde qián. Wǒ yào zìjǐ zhuàn qián!) I don’t want to take your money. I will make it by myself!

 

他们不吃这个东西。(Tāmen cái bù chī zhèɡe dōnɡxi.) There is no way they are eating this.

>> 他们不吃这个东西。(Tāmen bù chī zhèɡe dōnɡxi.) They don’t eat this.

 

那个地方太远了,我不去。(Nàɡe dìfɑnɡ tài yuan le, wǒ cái bú qù.) That place is so far, and I’d never go there.

>> 那个地方太远了,我不去。(Nàɡe dìfɑnɡ tài yuan le, wǒ bú qù.) That place is so far, and I don’t go there.

 

4) Sentence patterns

只有……才…… 

To emphasize that only a certain condition will bring about the desired outcome, we can use the structure “只有……才……” which can be translated into “if and only if…” where “只有” follows an essential condition and the desired outcome will be after “才”.

只有 + Condition + 才 + Outcome

e.g.

只有每天锻炼,我们能保持健康!(Zhǐyǒu měitiān duànliàn, wǒmen cái nénɡ bǎochí jiànkānɡ!) Only if we exercise every day can we keep healthy!

只有这样做能成功。(Zhǐyǒu zhèyànɡ zuò cái nénɡ chénɡɡōnɡ.) Only if you do like this can you succeed.

只有多听多说,你的口语会提高。(Zhǐyǒu duō tīnɡ duō shuō, nǐ de kǒuyǔ cái huì tíɡāo.) Only if you listen more and speak more will you improve your oral Chinese.

 

除非……才…… 

“除非” means “unless”, so the whole structure indicates the part that begins by “才” won’t happen unless the condition led by “除非” is met. In another word, only the condition led by “除非” can bring the desired result after “才”. So we can think of “除非……才……” expressing “only if” as well.

除非 + Condition, 才 + Result

e.g.

除非天气好,我们能去爬山。(Chúfēi tiānqì hǎo, women cái nénɡ qù pá shān.) We can go to climb only if the weather is nice.

除非老板给我涨工资,我不会走。(Chúfēi láobǎn ɡěi wǒ zhǎnɡ ɡōnɡzī, wǒ cái bú huì zǒu.) Only if the boss gives me a raise will I not leave.

除非你写完这些东西,他会让你离开。(Chúfēi nǐ xiě wán zhè xiē dōnɡxi, tā cái huì rànɡ nǐ líkāi.)

Only if you finish all these things will he let you go.

 

Note that after “除非” can’t use a noun or numeral word directly, but “只有” can.

e.g.

只有能帮你。(Zhǐyǒucái nénɡ bānɡ nǐ.) Only him can help you.

✘ 除非能帮你。(Chúfēicái nénɡ bānɡ nǐ.) 

 

这个节目只有十个人够,五个人不够。(Zhège jiémù zhǐyǒu shí gè rén cái gòu, wǔ gè rén bùgòu.) Only ten people are enough for this show, five people are not enough.

这个节目除非十个人够,五个人不够。(Zhège jiémù chúfēi shí gè rén cái gòu, wǔ gè rén bùgòu.)

1. He just came back. I haven't told him about it yet.
→ ___ 。
A.
B.
C.
D.
2. Only if you keep exercising, you will have a good body.
→ ___ 。
A.
B.
C.
D.
3. There's no way he is a poet.
→ ___ 。
A.
B.
C.
D.
4. Only he can solve this problem.
→ ___ 。
A.
B.
C.
D.
5. She didn't start first grade until she was ten.
→ ___ 。
A.
B.
C.
D.

 

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