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The Words and Structures to Express “Sometimes” in Chinese

Early in their studies, almost all Chinese learners are taught“有时候”(yǒu shíhou), which means “Sometimes”. However, when you go deeper into learning Chinese, you’ll find that it cannot be used in all cases. Besides “有时候”, there are other words for “Sometimes” that can be used in daily life. In this article, we are going to share two more commonly used ways to say “Sometimes,” and to demonstrate the ways to use each one.

时而 is an adverb which is normally used in written Chinese. When using this word, it indicates something happens repeatedly and not regularly. There are mainly two sentence structures for this word.

1) 时而 …… 时而 ……

When the word is used repeatedly, it is to show alternating situations or different phenomena in a certain period of time. For example:

最近她有点奇怪,时而哭,时而发呆,不爱说话了。

(Zuìjìn tā yǒudiǎn qíguài, shí’ér kū, shí’ér fādāi, bù ài shuōhuàle.)

Recently, she has been a bit strange, sometimes crying, sometimes dazed, not talking any more.

 

那个人时而看外面,时而看手表,可能在等人。

(Nàgè rén shí’ér kàn wàimiàn, shí’ér kàn shǒubiǎo, kěnéng zài děng rén.)

The man sometimes looks outside, and sometimes looks at his watch. Maybe he is waiting for someone.

 

时而开心,时而难过,时而平静,这就是生活。

(Shí’ér kāixīn, shí’ér nánguò, shí’ér píngjìng, zhè jiùshì shēnghuó.)

Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes peaceful, this is life.

 

今天时而出太阳,时而下雨,这个比赛不能在户外进行了。

(Jīntiān shí’ér chū tàiyáng, shí’ér xià yǔ, zhège bǐsài bùnéng zài hùwài jìnxíngle.)

Sometimes the sun comes out, sometimes it rains, this game can’t be held outdoors.

 

2) 时而 + verbal phrase / adjective phrase ……

When the word is followed by a verbal phrase or an adjective phrase, it`s not allowed to be used repeatedly. For example:

这段时间时而会下很大的雨。

(Zhè duàn shíjiān shí’ér huì xià hěn dà de yǔ.)

At this period of time, there would be heavy rains sometimes.

 

生病以后,同事们时而来我家看我。

(Shēngbìng yǐhòu, tóngshìmen shí’ér lái wǒjiā kàn wǒ.)

After getting ill, colleagues sometimes come to visit me at my home.

 

时而听到邻居吵架的声音。

(Wǒ shí’ér tīng dào línjū chǎojià de shēngyīn.)

I sometimes heard the sound of neighbors quarreling.

 

虽然他在开会,但也时而看看手机。

(Suīrán tā zài kāihuì, dàn yě shí’ér kàn kàn shǒujī.)

Although he is in a meeting, he also sometimes looks at his phone.

In addition to the word 时而,we can also use 不时 to express the same meaning. When “时而” is not used repeatedly, 不时 can be used to replace 时而 in the second sentence structure. However,  in the first structure of “时而……时而……”,it cannot be replaced by 不时.

For more detailed illustration and more grammar points explanations, you can check Chinese Grammar Course – HSK.

QIN CHEN

Qin Chen focuses on teaching Chinese and language acquisition. She is willing to introduce more about Chinese learning ways and skills. Now, she is working as Mandarin teacher at All Mandarin.

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