Referring to Time

Cuando quieras ser específico sobre algo que ocurrió en el pasado, recuerda que en mandarín no hay un tiempo pasado. Menciona simplemente el momento en que ocurrió algo y luego continúa con normalidad.

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

我昨天八点起了床
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.

我今天下班的时候觉得很饿.
Today when I got off work I felt very hungry.

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

我小时候不喜欢学习
When I was young, I didn’t like studying.

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

你才知道吗?
You just know now? (You’re just finding out about this now?)

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

我们刚才开始.
We just now started.