Answer to the Exercise on “就(jiù)” vs “才(cái)”: Sooner or Later?

Correct Answer: C
In the Chinese language, the two Chinese words “就(jiù)” and “才(cái)” have a lot of similarities when it comes to usage. For example, both “就(jiù)” and “才(cái)” can be used as adverbs and they can be placed before verbs to express a certain meaning.
However, their difference lies in their meanings, which are opposites.
The adverb “就(jiù)” can be used before a verb to show that something has happened or will happen early than expected. This could be translated as “as early as.” Additionally, there is often a “了(le)” at the end of the sentence.
The pattern is: Subject + Time + “就(jiù)” + Verb +了(le)


Wǒmen zǎoshang bādiǎn shàngbān, kěshì lǎobǎn qīdiǎn jiù lái le.
我们          早上       八点       上班,   可是   老板    七点    就 来 了。
We started work at 8 o’clock, but our boss came as early as 7 o’clock.

Linda:  Nǐ zuótiān zěnme méiyǒu huífù wǒ de yóujiàn?
Linda:你   昨天    怎么    没有    回复  我  的   邮件?
Linda: Why didn’t you reply to my email yesterday?

Zhāng Wě: Bù hǎo yìsi,    wǒ zuótiān jiǔdiǎn jiù shuìjiào le.
张        伟:不  好   意思,我   昨天     九点    就  睡觉   了。
Zhang Wei: Sorry, I went to bed by 9 o’clock last night.

However, the adverb “才(cái)” expresses the opposite meaning. “才(cái)” is used after a time word and before a verb to emphasize that the action has happened or will happen later than expected. It is usually the equivalent of “as late as” or “not until” in English. Sentences using “才(cái)” in this way usually do not end with “了(le).”
The pattern is: Subject + Time +“才(cái)” + Verb


Lǎopo: Nǐ zěnme xiànzài cái huílái?
老婆: 你  怎么    现在    才  回来?
Wife: Why are you just now getting back?

Lǎogōng: Qīn’àide, wǒ jīntiān jiābān.
老公:       亲爱的,我  今天   加班。
Husband: Dear, I worked overtime today.

Wǒ jīntiān shídiǎn cái qǐchuáng.
我   今天    十点    才     起床。
I didn’t get up until ten o’clock this morning.

In our test, Lucy thought Li Ming came later than she had expected, so we use “才(cái).” But in fact, Li Ming left home as early as 5 o’clock, so here we can use “就(jiù).” This means the correct answer is C.

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