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Introduction | Episodes |

13 Breakfast 早餐

大家好. It’s great to see you all again here on Growing up with Chinese 成长汉语. 欢迎收看. Thanks for tuning in.

Last time we covered present tense in Chinese. And I hope that you didn’t feel like it was too hard. Between 在, 正在 and 正 we pretty much covered all the present tense basis.

Today our topic is past tense. And trust me, it’s essentially as easy as present tense. And nowhere near*1 as difficult as English past tense. We’ll be learning past tense with the help of 小明’s mom and Mike who finally decided to wake up. Now today’s vocabulary will be focusing on morning activities like breakfast and getting ready to go out. So let’s check out what’s going on.



OK guys, I know there was quite a bit of new vocabulary in what we just saw. But did you all find it slightly easy to follow based on the context? Now we’ve got explanations ready so you’ll get it all in no time. And like always we’re going to break it down once, and then break it down some more. OK?

麦克, 你快去洗脸吧. 这是你的浴巾, 洗发液和浴液在卫生间. Mike, why don’t you go wash your face, this is your bath towel, shampoo and body wash are in the bathroom. Now for the most part this sentence and its structure are pretty straightforward. We’ve got a slightly new way of using 在 which will get into and just a little while.

麦克, 你怎么不穿拖鞋啊? Mike, why aren’t you wearing slippers? In this part of the dialogue, 小明’s mom is telling Mike he should be wearing slippers not walking around in his bare feet; we have a cultural difference. In many countries including the States, going barefoot in your house is quite common no matter what time of year it might be. In China, going barefoot isn’t something you see too much of.

Now this custom can be traced back to the development of traditional Chinese medicine. They say that all the major organs of your body are represented on the bottom of your foot. And so, foot massage is quite a common practice here, especially for balancing your body. If you feel get cold, it has the potential to affect to your entire body. So slippers and socks are must. Now to this day when people come over to my apartment here and see me, barefoot, they will always without fail*2, tell me to put some socks and slippers on. This is the custom.


快吃早饭吧, 小明已经吃过了. Hurry up and eat your breakfast, 小明 has already eaten. Ah this is where past tense comes into play with the use of 已经 already. Now it’s a cultural side note, some of you may be wondering why 小明’s mom is telling Mike to hurry up and eat breakfast. In China, saying hurry up in a context like this isn’t said to literally make you hurry. It’s used the way we might say help yourself in English. It’s very polite and it’s also very welcoming.


我想吃面包, 喝牛奶. I want to eat some bread and drink some milk. Now remember how I said that in Chinese, they don’t have a “have” equivalent when talking about food and drink. We can say in English, “I’d like some bread and milk” or “let’s have bread and milk.” And there is really nothing incorrect with that sentence. Chinese uses the actual specific verb for eating and drinking. So that’s why we see the verb eat 吃 and the verb drink 喝 in this sentence. 我想吃面包, 喝牛奶. I want to have some bread, and drink some milk.


OK everyone let’s check out what we have lined up for today’s vocabulary.

Before we get into our very exciting radical of the day let’s take a look at our vocabulary list.

  • 醒 wake up, awaken. xǐng
  • 洗脸 wash one’s face. xǐ liǎn
  • 穿 wear, put on clothes. chuān
  • 喝 drink, to drink. hē
  • 浴巾 bath towel. yù jīn
  • 洗发液 shampoo. xǐ fà yè
  • 浴液 body wash. yù yè
  • 卫生间 bathroom. wèi shēng jiān

Today we are going to take a look at the radical for water. It’s in a whole bunch of characters we’re looking at today. Now, let’s look at the actual character for water or 水. 水 is written like this. It’s pretty isn’t it. It kind of looks like a flowing river.

Now, when water turns into a radical, it looks like this. 三点水 it’s called and it’s water drops or three dots of water. Now some of the characters in today’s vocabulary list, that have the water radical are 洗, which on its own means to wash and 浴液. While 浴液 is the word for body wash, it’s two characters. And one is split up they are 浴 bathe and 液 liquid. Now all three of these characters have a direct connection to water in their meaning. So like we’ve seen in the past, this is another example of a radical that gives meaning to the character it’s coupled with. 三点水 three dots of water, the water radical.


Today we will going to let the agricultural calendar and its associated holidays have a rest. And talk about something completely different.

Every culture has its wise sayings. Some have been around*3 for thousands of years, and others may have become popular more recently. Many cultures also share similar sayings. In the States, we say “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” to mean that not everything is perfect you can’t always get what you want. And just looking at a cake can be fun. In Israel, they say “you can’t have your cake and eat it whole.” So it’s very similar.

Now if you all remember from our very first show, I mentioned that China has over five thousand years of history, that’s a very long time. And also it’s a very fertile ground to grow many many sayings wisdom. And today, we’re going to talk about one of the sayings.

It is “一年之计在于春, 一天之计在于晨.” But don’t worry, this isn’t something you have to memorize or add to your vocabulary list if you don’t want to. Let me give you a basic translation of it. 一年之计在于春. With this phrase its saying is that of all the seasons of the year, spring is the most important. It is the planting and cultivating of spring that brings harvests of summer and fall, which is what people live on throughout the winter.

Now the second half of the saying, 一天之计在于晨 essentially means, that have all the times of the day, morning is the most important. It’s morning that informs what we will be doing all day. What we will accomplish, what goals you may achieve. Now I’m sure you can all see the parallels*4 between spring and morning. And the more is, if we plan properly in the beginning and lay a good foundation, what comes after will be golden. A “seize the day*5” kind of message.


OK, it’s time to put traditional sayings aside, and look at some grammatical sayings. It’s time now to discuss some language points.

We’ve already covered 了 in past shows. And discussed how it functions as a marker following an adjective or a verb for noting completion of a change or the completion of an action. If it’s completed, then it’s in the past right? Similarly, when 了 pops up at the end of a sentence, it indicates that something has changed. So 了 is a big player in the theater of past tense.

Now there are some other words that help clarify that something is past. We have them in English too. Let’s take a look at 已经 or already. 小明已经吃过了. 小明 has already eaten. The pattern we see here is 已经……了. Now the 了 has to be present because the action or change has already taken place right? So, 他已经走了. He already left. 她已经十岁了. She is already ten years old. Now there is another line in today’s dialogue that uses 已经. 他已经去起打球了. He’s already gone out to play ball. Not too hard to grasp, is it? Let’s take a look at some other examples.

  • 小明,你们什么时候放假啊?/我们已经放假了。今天是第一天。
  • 喂,兰兰,你有空吗? 我请你吃pizza,怎么样?/唉,小明,你早说啊。我已经吃过了。

We talked about using 在 last class in the context of present tense. To be in the action of doing something. 他在睡着. He is sleeping. In today’s context, 洗发液和浴液在卫生间. 在 is used to indicate where a person or thing is. The shampoo and body wash are in the bathroom. So the pattern is something + 在 + somewhere. Let’s look at some examples.

  • 小明,你干什么呢?/我的语文书找不到了。/语文书不就你手里吗?

Here is the simple one, 想 to want. And incidentally, 想 has another meaning other than to want. It also means to “think” but we’ll cover that another time. In today’s dialogue Mike says 我想吃面包, 喝牛奶. I want to eat bread and drink milk.

  • 哎呀,饿死我了。妈,我吃饭。/才五点多种。你先吃点儿饼干吧。

OK that wraps up tenses for now, you guys made it, good job. Next time we will be covering something entirely different so rest assured*6, you’re all going to get a break from tenses and tension. Everyone take the breath, and release. 很好.

Now, do not forget to leave us some feedback, OK? Happy day to all of you, I will see you next time. 加油, 再见.

*1:nowhere near 〜とは段違いだ

*2:without fail 必ず

*3:have been around 存続している

*4:parallel 類似

*5:seize the day 今日を大切にせよ

*6:rest assured 安心する