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Chinese Character Bites – #32 – 就

Chinese Character Bites 32 - 就

Our character for today is 就

Simplified Chinese character: 就
Traditional Chinese character: 就
(The simplified character and the traditional character are the same)


This character is pronounced jiù in the 4th tone.

How to use 就

就 is used in a number of different ways. It can be translated as  ‘just / simply / right away / then’ depending on the context, and it’s best to understand the different ways it is used instead of just learning one translation.

It is an important grammar character in Chinese, but it can take time and a lot of examples to understand it properly, so if you don’t get it straight away then don’t worry about it!

Let me explain the main uses:

a) It can be used to emphasise earliness, suddenness or surprise about something happening in a short space of time. For example 你怎么这么早来了 (Why have you come so early?) 我6点钟吃早饭 (I eat breakfast as early as 6am)

b)  It can be used to mean ‘just have something‘. For example 我一个手机 (I only have one mobile phone).

c) It can be used with 如果 ‘if’, to start the second part of the sentence. In this usage it can sometimes be translated as ‘then’. For example, 如果你要来,你告诉我 (If you are going to come, then tell me).

d) It can be used in front of a verb, usually 是, to add emphasis. For example 我是想跟你结婚 (I just want to marry you).

e) It can be used with 一 to mean ‘as soon as’. For example, 我一看到你,特别高兴 (As soon as I see you, I feel especially happy).

f) 就是 can also be use to add emphasis to nouns or adjectives, or on it’s own to mean ‘Yes, exactly’. For example 她就是很漂亮 (She is very beautiful).

g) It’s also used as part of specific sentence structures, for example after 一旦 (as soon as), 既然 (since), 只要 (as long as), 假设 (if) and 要是 (if).

And there are a couple of other smaller uses too, but it’s best to learn about them as you come across them.

In some situations 就 will need to be translated, and sometimes you don’t need to translate it.

Let’s break it down:

The left hand side of the character is 京 (jīng) ‘capital’ and the right hand side is 尤 yóu (a component which originally indicated the pronunciation)