1. 才(cái) and 就(jiù) both can be used to reinforce the idea that the quantity is small or inferior to what is expected. It’s equal to ‘only’ in English.
Subj. + 才(cái)/就(jiù) + Quantity + Measure Word + Noun
There are only eight people in this class.
There are only two employees in the company.
- Zhège bān cái/jiù bā gè rén.
- Zhèjiā gōngsi cái/jiù liǎng gè yuángōng.
2. When there is a verb appearing in a sentence structure, the position of ‘才‘(cái) or ‘就’(jiù) is either before or after the verb.
Subj. + 才(cái) / 就(jiù) + Verbal phrase + Measure word + Noun
Subj. + Verbal phrase + 才(cái) / 就(jiù) + Measure word + Noun
我 才/就 来上海不到两天 = 我来上海 才/就 不到两天
I came to Shanghai only for less two days.
他们 才/就 认识三个星期就结婚了 = 他们认识 才/就 三个星期就结婚了
They only knew each other for three weeks before they got married.
- Wǒ cái/jiù lái shànghǎi búdào liǎngtiān.
- Wǒ lái Shànghǎi cái/jiù bùdào liǎngtiān.
- Tāmen cái/jiù rènshi sān gè xīngqi jiù jiéhūn le.
- Tāmen rènshi cái/jiù sān gè xīngqi jiū jiéhūn le.
1. ‘才’ expresses that the action taken is later than expected. It is placed before the main verb. Sometimes, it is equal to ‘not until’, ‘as late as’ in English.
Subj. + Time + 才(cái) + Verb.
I had dinner at 8 pm last night.
She didn’t get married until she was thirty-seven.
How come you just got here?
- Wǒ zuówǎn bādiǎn cái chī wǎnfàn.
- Tā sānshí qī suì cái jiéhūn.
- Nǐmen zěnme xiànzài cái lái?
Subj. + Verb + 了(le) + Time + 才(cái) + Verb
It took me two hours to get the tickets.
He was late for one hour and a half.
He didn’t feel full until he’s eaten three bowls of rice.
- wǒ děng le liǎng gè xiǎoshí cái mǎi dào piào.
- tā chídào le yígè bàn xiǎoshií cái lái.
- tā chīle sān wǎn fàn cái chībǎo.
2. ‘就‘ expresses that the action taken is earlier or sooner than expected. It is placed before the main verb. Sometimes, it is equal to ‘as early as’ in English.
Subj. + Time + 就(jiù) + Verb
我一会儿就到。I will be here in a few minutes.
他一大早就来了。He came here in the early morning.
昨晚我八点就睡觉了。I went to bed at 8 pm last night.
- Wǒ yíhuìr jiù dào.
- Tā yídà zǎo jiù lái le.
- Zuówǎn wǒ bādiǎn jiù shuìjiào le.
Subj. + Time + 就(jiù) + Verb + 了(le)
My younger sister went to university when she was only 15.
I want to give her a present, but she left early in this morning.
He had dinner at 4 pm.
- Wǒ de mèimei shíwǔ suì jiù shàng dàxué le.
- Wǒ xiǎng gěi tā yífèn lǐwù, kěshì tā jīnzǎo jiù zǒu le.
- Tā xiàwǔ sìdiǎn jiù chī wǎnfàn le.
They came as early as 3 o’clock, but you came as late as now.
She can go to China this year, I can only go to China by next year!
They can set off today at 3 pm, we can only set off at 8 pm!
- Tāmen sāndiǎn jiù lái le, kěshì nǐmen xiànzài cái lái.
- Tā jīnnián jiù kěyǐ qù Zhōngguó, wǒ míngnián cái kěyǐ qù Zhōngguó.
- Tāmen jīntiān xiàwǔ sāndiǎn jiù néng chūfā, wǒmen yào wǎnshàng bādiǎn cái néng zǒu.