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How to Use “以前(yǐqián)” And “以后(yǐhòu)” in Chinese

Mar. 20, 2014

Answer: A

In the Chinese language, “前(qián)” means before, and “后(hòu)” means after. Both “以前(yǐqián)” and “以后(yǐhòu)” can be used to indicate a period of time. They are similar in usage. In this text we will introduce three situations for using these two words.

Situation 1:

“以前(yǐqián)” can be used after a time word to express before or ago. The structure is “time + 以前(yǐqián).”

Examples:

Wǒ bā diǎn yǐqián dào gōngsī.
我   八  点    以前   到   公司。

I will arrive at the company before 8 o’clock.

Liǎng nián yǐqián, wǒ qù guò zhōng guó.
两      年     以前,我  去 过    中       国  。

I’ve been to China two years ago.

Similarly, “以后(yǐhòu)” can be used after a time word to indicate after or later. And the structure is “time + 以后(yǐhòu).”

Examples:

Wǒ shí fēnzhōng yǐhòu dào jiā.
我   十  分钟         以后  到    家。

I will arrive home in ten minutes.

Zhāng Mínɡ wǔ gè yuè yǐhòu jiéhūn.
张        明     五  个 月    以后  结婚。

Zhang Ming will get married in five months.

Situation 2:

“以前(yǐqián)” and “以后(yǐhòu)” can also be used after a certain action to indicate a period of time. The basic structure is “action + 以前(yǐqián)” and “action + 以后(yǐhòu).”

The structure “action + 以前(yǐqián)” indicates the period of time before the action or event.

Examples

Shàngbān yǐqián, wǒ yào chī zǎo fàn.
上班           以前,我  要   吃  早   饭  。

Before going to work, I will have breakfast.

Jack shuìjiào yǐqián xǐhuān kànshū.
Jack 睡觉       以前  喜欢     看书。

Jack likes to read books before sleeping.

Similarly, the structure “action or event + 以后(yǐhòu)” indicates the period of time after the action or event.

Examples

Tā  xiàbān yǐhòu yào xué hànyǔ.
他   下班     以后  要   学   汉语。

After finishing work, he is going to study Chinese.

Chī wǎnfàn yǐhòu,  wǒmen qù sànbù ba.
吃   晚饭     以后, 我们     去  散步    吧 。

Let’s take a walk after dinner.

Additionally, in the structures “time + 以前(后)” and “action or event + 以前(后),” the terms “以前(yǐqián)” and “以后(yǐhòu)” can be shortened to “前(qián)” and “后(hòu).” In this case, the structure becomes “time + 前(后)” and “action or event + 前(后)” for short.

Examples:

Sān nián qián,  wǒ bú huì yóuyǒng.
三    年     前,  我 不  会   游泳   。

I can’t swim three year ago.

Xiàxuě hòu, tiānqì hěn lěng.
下雪     后,天气    很   冷。

The weather is cold after a snow fall.

Situation3:

The two words “以前(yǐqián)” and “以后(yǐhòu)” can be used independently to indicate the past and the future. But in this situation you cannot write them in their short form.

Examples:

Yǐqián, Tom hěn xǐhuān chī xīguā.
以前,  Tom  很  喜欢     吃  西瓜。

Before, Tom likes eating watermelon very much.

Yǐhòu,  wǒ yào jīngcháng yùndòng.
以后,  我  要  经常          运动   。

Afterwards, I will do regular exercise.

In our test, the fact that “I couldn’t say Chinese” happened one year ago. So the correct answer is A.

<<Back to “How to Express a Period of Time in Chinese?”

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