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par. used after a verb or an adj to indicate the completion of an action, or the end of a sentence for a change of situation
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When 了 is used, does it mean the sentence is definitely about the past?
The answer is NO. In the examples below, 了 is used but the sentence is not about the past:
E.g. 1 啊哟,下雨了! [phr] Ah, it's raining!
E.g. 2 我马上要进机场了。 [phr] I will enter the airport very soon.

In Chinese, the particle 了 may be used after the predicate verb to indicate the completion of an action. The basic pattern is “V 了 O”. For example:
E.g. 3 他买了一双鞋。 [phr] He bought a pair of shoes.
E.g. 4 她爱上了他。 [phr] She fell in love with him.

A completed action may happen either in the past, the present, or the future. The time of this completed action is denoted by time nouns or phrases in the sentence. For example, “十五分钟前” in E.g. 5., 上周末 in E.g. 6.
E.g. 5 十五分钟前下雨 [phr] 15 minutes ago it started to rain; 15 minutes ago it was raining
E.g. 6 你上周末做了什么? [phr] What did you do last weekend?

Let’s go back to E.g. 1 and 2 now. In those two sentences, 了 is used to indicate the changing aspect of an action. It is used when the action is going to change or to happen relatively soon. In E.g. 1, the change is happening simultaneously with the comment. It means that it was not raining a while ago but now at the time of speaking, it’s raining — thus the change.
Do we have to use 了 whenever we talk about an event or a situation of the past?
The answer is NO.
1. In sentences describing the past, if there are words such as 每次, 天天, 常常, 一直 or 经常, etc., we cannot use 了 anymore. When these words are used, we are describing a habitual action or event of the past, referring to an action or situation that happened repeatedly during a certain period of time in the past.
E.g.1 年轻的时候我常常骑车上学。 (phr) When I was young, I usually rode a bike to go to school.

2. In sentences including a series of actions which happened one after another in the past, even though each action is completed, we usually only use one 了 after the last action. We do not use 了 after each and every action in such sentences.
E.g. 2 他突然站起来,脱掉衬衣,一头扎进了游泳池里。(phr) He stood up all of a sudden, then took off his shirt, and plunged into the swimming pool.
What are some of the different contexts in which 了 can be used? (le)
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