Chinese Question Words

How to Say “When” in Mandarin?

什么时候 Shenme Shihou & 几时 Jishi in Chinese



How to Say When in Chinese?

When in Mandarin is 什么时候 Shénme shíhou. Another secondary word for When in Chinese is 几时 Jǐshí which both the words can replace each other.

什么时候 Shénme shíhou is more widely used and understood by everyone. 几时 Jǐshí is deemed to be a more formal traditional word adopted in Chinese literature.

Furthermore, the southern part of China uses 几时 Jǐshí more than the northern territory of China. The Cantonese people use this word to express When in Chinese too.

The Northern Chinese may not understand the meaning if you use 几时 Jǐshí. Therefore, it is better to stick to the standard phrase 什么时候 Shénme shíhou for asking When in Mandarin questions so everyone would understand.

The other formal word is 何时 Hé shí which expresses When in Mandarin too. We do not use this word often in conversation as it has a literary sense. Therefore, I would not provide examples with 何时 in this post.


Frequently Used Prepositions and Verbs

We can also combine When in Mandarin 什么时候 shénme shíhou and 几时 Jǐshí with some of these frequently used Chinese prepositions and verbs in a sentence – .

These words can also be seen in the previous post – Where in Chinese on locational related sentences.

Below is a simple table that will make you a pro when constructing your interrogative sentences – When in Mandarin. We will form some Chinese phrases using the formula below.

At/In/OnOn When在什么时候,在几时
SinceSince When从什么时候,从几时
UntilUntil When到什么时候,到几时
ArriveWhen… Arrive…什么时候到,几时到
GoWhen… Go…什么时候去,几时去
LeaveWhen… Leave…什么时候走,几时走
ComeWhen… Come…什么时候来,几时来
ReturnWhen… Return…什么时候回,几时回




Confusing? Which When in Chinese to Use?

Many of the verbs in the table are also interchangeable because the correct words used are dependent on the perspective of the person and the actual circumstance that happens. For instance:-

1. When are you going to my house?
    你什么时候我家?
    Nǐ shén me shí hòu wǒ jiā?

2. When are you coming to my house?
    你什么时候我家?
    Nǐ shén me shí hòu lái wǒ jiā?

Both sentences are grammatically correct in English or Chinese, but which one to use depends on the circumstance and the location of origin that happen.

The last part of the Chinese conversation at the end of this post will give you a better idea of the differences when a scenario, place and country of origin is presented.

The conclusion is that no matter which sentence you select above, you are likely going to be correct anyway and get away with it unless the other party is a grammar freak.

When in Mandarin – 什么时候 / 几时

The table above is just a guide. There are endless possibilities combining with other Chinese verbs to describe various situations.

When can I call you?

我什么时候可以打电话给你?
Wǒ shén me shí hòu kě yǐ dǎ diàn huà gěi nǐ?


When can we meet (again)?

什么时候我们可以(再)见面?
Shén me shí hòu wǒ men kě yǐ (zài) jiàn miàn?


When are you free to go to the park for a walk?

你什么时候有空一起去公园散步?
Nǐ shén me shí hòu yǒu kòng yīqǐ qù gōng yuán sàn bù?


When is the result? (Literally: When to know the result?)

几时可以知道答案?
Jǐ shí kě yǐ zhī dào dá’àn?


– We go travelling together!
– Good! When?

– 我们一起去旅行吧!
– 好啊!什么时候?/ 几时?

– Wǒ men yī qǐ qù lǚ xíng ba!
– Hǎo a! Shén me shí hòu? / Jǐ shí?



 

At When in Mandarin – 在什么时候 / 在几时

When a subject of interest has been mentioned and placed at the beginning of the sentence, we will put  Zài before 什么时候 / 几时.

When is China’s National Day?

中国的国庆日在什么时候?
Zhōng guó de guó qìng rì zài shén me shí hòu?


When did this incident happen?

这件事在什么时候发生的?
Zhè jiàn shì zài shén me shí hòu fā shēng de?


When is the best time to watch the meteor shower?

看流星雨最佳时间是在几时?
Kàn liú xīng yǔ zuì jiā shí jiān shì zài jǐ shí?

 

Since When in Mandarin – 从什么时候 / 从几时

从什么时候 / 从几时 + Start 开始 Kāishǐ often come together as a phrase to mean “When did you start …? or Since when …?”. Cóng means “from”.

Since when did you start liking the Chinese language?

从什么时候开始,你对中文感兴趣了?
Cóng shén me shí hòu kāi, shǐ nǐ duì zhōng wén gǎn xìng qù le?


Since when did we know each other?

我们从什么时候开始认识对方?
Wǒ men cóng shén me shí hòu kāi shǐ rèn shì duì fāng?


Since when did they stop talking to each other?

从几时开始,他们不和对方说话了?
Cóng jǐ shí kāi shǐ, tā men bù hé duì fāng shuō huà le?

 

Until When in Mandarin – 到什么时候 / 到几时

什么时候 / 几时 – Note that the word Dào which comes before the two terms means “until” in this context. The meaning of the Chinese phrase is “When is it going to end?” be it a date or a situation.

When is the dateline?

截止日期到什么时候?
Jié zhǐ rìqí dào shén me shí hòu?


When will the agony stop? (describing mental or emotional pain)

到什么时候痛苦才会停?
Dào shén me shí hòu tòng kǔ cái huì tíng?


Until when will you talk to me?

你要到几时才会和我说话?
Nǐ yào dào jǐ shí cái huì hé wǒ shuō huà?


When… Arrive… – 什么时候到 / 几时到

什么时候到 / 几时到 – Now the word Dào comes after the two terms. It means “arrive”. Dào indicates one who is going to arrive on the spot or has already reached the place.

1. When are you arriving home? (Present Tense)
    你什么时候到家?
    Nǐ shén me shí hòu dào jiā?

2. When did you arrive home?  (Past Tense)
    你什么时候到家(的)?
    Nǐ shén me shí hòu dào jiā (de)?

* The addition of de confirms that a person has already reached home. In a real conversation, the  de may be omitted out when speaking.

Although the two Chinese sentence constructions have all the same words and may seem confusing at this point, when applying it in an actual circumstance, the context would be understood.

When do you want me to arrive there?

你要我什么时候到那里?
Nǐ yào wǒ shén me shí hòu dào nà lǐ?


When did you arrive home last night? I didn’t hear you come in.

昨晚,你几时到家?我没听见你进来。
Zuó wǎn, nǐ jǐ shí dào jiā? Wǒ méi tīng jiàn nǐ jìn lái.


When are you arriving? When did Peter arrive at the airport? I didn’t see him.

你什么时候到?彼得几时到了机场?我没看见他。
Nǐ shén me shí hòu dào? Bǐ Dé jǐ shí dào jī chǎng?

 

When… Go… – 什么时候去 / 几时去

什么时候去 / 几时去 is a straightforward Chinese sentence construction like how you would translate from English sentence. is “go”. You can go far with the phrase “When are you going to…?

When are you going to Malaysia?

你什么时候去马来西亚?
Nǐ shén me shí hòu qù mǎ lái xī yà?


When to travel is the airfare the cheapest?

什么时候去旅行,机票最便宜?
Shénme shí hòu qù lǚ xíng, jī piào zuì pián yí?


When are you going to register?

你几时去报名?
Nǐ jǐ shí qù bào míng?



 

When… Leave… – 什么时候走 / 几时走

什么时候走 / 几时走 simply means “When are you leaving? Zǒu means “leave” in the examples below and placed at the end of the sentences.

When are you leaving?

你什么时候走?
Nǐ shén me shí hòu zǒu?


That person talks a lot, when is she going to leave?

那个人话很多,她要什么时候走?
Nà gè rén huà hěn duō, tā yào shén me shí hòu zǒu?


I am rushing for time. When are we leaving?

我赶时间。我们几时走?
Wǒ gǎn shí jiān. Wǒ men jǐshí zǒu?


Another meaning of 走 Zǒu is “walk”, but you also have to add other verbs to form a proper sentence – 什么时候 + 走去走来走回走到. The meaning will also change from “leaving” to “walking“.

For the examples below, you have to imagine yourself in at the mentioned (current) location talking and calling a colleague so you can visualise the situation.

    (Your current location: Office)
1. When are we walking over to the restaurant?
    我们什么时候走去餐馆?
    Wǒ men shén me shí hòu zǒu qù cān guǎn?

    (Your current location: Restaurant)
2. When are you coming over to the restaurant (by foot)?
    你什么时候走来餐馆?
    Nǐ shén me shí hòu zǒu lái cān guǎn?

    (Your current location: Restaurant)
3. When are we walking back to the office?
    我们什么时候走回公司?
    Wǒ men shén me shí hòu zǒu huí gōng sī?

    (Your current location: Home)
4. When will you reach my house (by foot)?
    你什么时候走到我家?
    Nǐ shén me shí hòu zǒu dào wǒ jiā?



 

When… Come… – 什么时候来 / 几时来

什么时候来 / 几时来 is “When are you coming? Lái means “come”. Use this phrase when you visualise someone coming over to you while you are in a stationary position.

You did not come and look for me for a long time. When are you coming to see me?

你很久没来找我了。你什么时候来看我?
Nǐ hěn jiǔ méi lái zhǎo wǒ le. Nǐ shén me shí hòu lái kàn wǒ?


When did they come? How come I didn’t know?

他们几时来的? 我怎么不知道?
Tā men jǐ shí lái de? Wǒ zěn me bù zhī dào? 


Your cheque is ready. When do you want to come to our office to collect?

你的支票准备好了。你要几时来我们的公司拿?
Nǐ de zhī piào zhǔn bèi hǎo le. Nǐ yào jǐ shí lái wǒ men de gōng sī ná?



 

When… Return… – 什么时候回 / 几时回

什么时候回 几时回, when used alone means “When are you returning? Huí signifies “return”. It may have another verb that goes with it such as 什么时候 + 回去 / 回来 / 回到.

They all have almost the same meaning – “returning or coming back”. Similar to the explanation above, it depends on the situation and the angle where you stand to use a more appropriate word.

1. When are you returning?
    什么时候
    Shén me shí hòu huí?

2. When are you going back? 
    什么时候回去
    Shén me shí hòu huí qù?

3. When are you coming back? 
    什么时候回来
    Shén me shí hòu huí lái?

4. When are you returning to + *LOCATION? 
    When did you return to + *LOCATION? 
    什么时候回到 + *地点?
    Shén me shí hòu huí dào + *Dì Diǎn?

A place is needed to complete the sentence here – 回到.

5. 什么时候回走? No such sentence construction! No such term – 回走!

Check out the Chinese Conversation below making use of some of these words to enhance your understanding.

When are you going back home?

你什么时候回家?
Nǐ shén me shí hòu huí jiā?


When are you returning to your country?

你几时回国?
Nǐ jǐ shí hu íguó?


When are you coming back to collect your things?

你什么时候回来拿你的东西?
Nǐ shén me shí hòu huí lái ná nǐ de dōng xī?


When did you return here? Why didn’t you inform me?

你什么时候回到这里?怎么没通知我?
Nǐ shén me shí hòu huí dào zhè lǐ? Zěn me méi tōng zhī wǒ?


When did you go back to school and attend the lesson again? I still thought that you did not like studying.

你什么时候又回去学校上课了?我还以为你不喜欢读书呢。
Nǐ shén me shí hòu yòu huí qù xué xiào shàng kè le? Wǒ hái yǐ wéi nǐ bù xǐ huān dú shū ne.


Chinese Conversation – When in Mandarin

John is an American who lives in China presently with his girlfriend, Jane. First, he would go to England for a business trip and then return to his hometown in America. A conversation took place between them using a variation of When in Mandarin.

The purpose is to help you understand better which phrase that we learn today is more suitable to use based on the context.

English

Jane: When are you going to England?
John: I will be flying to England for a business trip the day after tomorrow.

Jane: When are you returning to America?
John: I will return to America on next Monday.

Jane: When will you come back to China?
John: About a month later, back to China before Christmas.

Jane: When will your parents come to China?
John: It should be after New Year.

Jane: How long do they want to stay in China? When do they plan to return to America?
John: I am not sure about this yet. Yo! Today, you have a lot of questions!

Jane: Since when do you think that I ask you many questions?


Chinese

Jane: 你什么时候英国?
John: 我后天就飞去英国公干。

Jane: 你几时美国?
John: 我下个星期一回美国。

Jane: 你什么时候回来中国?
John: 大概一个月后,圣诞节之前回到中国。

Jane: 你的父母几时中国?
John: 应该是过了新年吧!

Jane: 他们想要在中国住什么时候?他们打算几时回到美国?
John: 这个我还不清楚。哟。。今天,你的问题好多啊!

Jane: 什么时候开始,你觉得我问你很多问题呢?



Pinyin

Jane: Nǐ shénme shíhòu qù yīngguó?
John: Wǒ hòutiān jiù fēi qù yīngguó gōnggàn.

Jane: Nǐ jǐshí huí měiguó?
John: Wǒ xià gè xīngqí yī huí měiguó.

Jane: Nǐ shénme shíhòu huílái zhōngguó?
John: Dàgài yīgè yuè hòu, shèngdàn jié zhī qiánhuí dào zhōngguó.

Jane: Nǐ de fùmǔ jǐshí lái zhōngguó?
John: Yīnggāi shìguòle xīnnián ba!

Jane: Tāmen xiǎng yào zài zhōngguó zhù dào shénme shíhòu? Tāmen dǎsuàn jǐshí huí dào měiguó?
John: Zhège wǒ hái bù qīngchǔ. Yō.. Jīntiān, nǐ de wèntí hǎoduō a!

Jane: Cóng shénme shíhòu kāishǐ, nǐ juédé wǒ wèn nǐ hěnduō wèntí ne?




Hope that you have a better idea now on using When in Mandarin. The last W family member in the Chinese Interrogation Series is Why in Mandarin. For an inquisitive person, How to Say Why in Mandarin is the way to go!

 

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