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Lesson 1 – Intermediate – The differences between “才” and “就”

At present, the sentence structure is like this:

“才” (cái)+ time/ quantifier……

Students who learn Chinese grammar get confused when they try to use 才 or 就. From these examples, we can notice that what the meaning of the sentence is similar with the meaning expressed by the sentence structure “time/ quantifier + 就(jiù)……”. We just add the content “的时候” (de shí hou)into the sentence to lay stress on readable and fluent sentence, early in time, short time, small amount or young age.

However, when we use “就” (jiù) to take the place of “才”(cái), the sentences change into these forms:
A 他起床的时候就九点了。(tā qǐ chuánɡ de shí hou jiù jiǔ diǎn le 。)
B 他休息的时候就学习了四个小时了。(tā xiū xi de shí hou jiù xué xí le sì ɡè xiǎo shí le 。)
C 他考上大学的时候就二十五岁了。(tā kǎo shànɡ dà xué de shí hou jiù èr shí wǔ suì le 。)
D 他吃饱饭的时候就吃了五碗饭了。(tā chī bǎo fàn de shí hou jiù chī le wǔ wǎn fàn le 。)
At this moment, the sentence structure is like:

“就”(jiù)+ time/ quantifier
Therefore, the meaning of these sentences is late in time; great number; old age. For example, sentence B stress that he have studied for four hours and four hours is a long time. And this sentence has the same meaning with “他学习了四个小时才休息”.( tā xué xí le sì ɡè xiǎo shí cái xiū xi “)

Consequently, we can use “才” in this sentence structure to express: too early, too little, too short in time or too young. On the contrary, we use “就” to
Express: too late, too much, too long in time or too old.

3、V1+才(cái)+V2…… V1+就(jiù)+V2
We use “才” (cái)between two verbs “V1+才+V2…… ”to express that the two kind of behaviors last for a long time. For example:
A 这个电影他看了两个小时才看完。(zhè ɡe diàn yǐnɡ tā kàn le liǎnɡ ɡè xiǎo shí cái kàn wán 。)
B 我做了三个小时才做完这个练习。(wǒ zuò le sān ɡè xiǎo shí cái zuò wán zhè ɡe liàn xí 。)

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