Referring to Time

When you want to be specific about something happening in the past, remember that Mandarin doesn’t have a past tense. You simply mention the time that something took place and then continue as normal.

Remember that this time reference needs to come right at the start of the sentence.

I got up at 8 o’clock yesterday.

This is because that time reference sets the context for whatever you’re about to say. Other languages conjugate verbs to the past tense, but in Mandarin this can’t happen.

If you’re not referring to a particular date or time, you can use 的时候 to refer to the time that something else happened.

Today when I got off work I felt very hungry.

In the set phrase “when I was young” we omit the 的 :

When I was young, I didn’t like studying.

Lastly, there’s a word 才 for “just” as in “just now.”

You just know now? (You’re just finding out about this now?)

To emphasize more that something happened moments ago, use 刚才.

We just now started.