How to Use Time Phrases in Mandarin Chinese

Learn phrases like "yesterday" and "next year" in Chinese

Electronic departure boards at a Chinese train station
Electronic departure boards at a Chinese train station. aiqingwang / Getty Images

Mandarin Chinese has time-related phrases that clarify when the action in a sentence is happening. These expressions are similar to English terms like, "yesterday" or "the day before yesterday."

Here is a list of common time expressions, which we will explore in more detail below:


today - 今天 - jīn tiān
yesterday - 昨天 - zuó tiān
the day before yesterday - 前天 - qián tiān
tomorrow - 明天 - míng tiān
the day after tomorrow - 後天 (trad) /后天 (simp) - hòu tiān


this year - 今年 - jīn nián
last year - 去年 - qù nián
two years ago - 前年 - qián nián
next year - 明年 - míng nián
two years from now - 後年 / 后年 - hòu nián

Weeks and Months

The prefixes for weeks and months are as follows:

this week - 這個星期 / 这个星期 - zhè gè xīngqī
this month - 這個月 / 这个月 - zhè gè yuè
last week - 上個星期 / 上个星期 - shàng gè xīngqī
last month - 上個月 / 上个月 - shàng gè yuè
two weeks ago - 上上個星期 / 上上个星期 - shàng shàng gè xīngqī
two months ago - 上上個月 / 上上个月 - shàng shàng gè yuè
next week - 下個星期 / 下个星期 - xià gè xīngqī
next month - 下個月 / 下个月 - xià gè yuè
two weeks from now - 下下個星期 / 下下个星期 - xià xià gè xīng qī
two months from now - 下下個月 / 下下个月 - xià xià gè yuè


The time expressions for days and years have the same prefixes except for the previous time period: 去 (qù) for last year and 昨 (zuó) for yesterday

The time expressions for year can also be used for events which happen every year, such as anniversaries, school years, and vacations. For example:

last year’s spring vacation
qù nián chūn jià

This same pattern can be used for events which follow weekly or monthly patterns, such as semesters or seasons:

last summer - 去年夏天 - qù nián xiàtiān