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  5. "我昨天晚上十一点才下班。"


Translation:I only got off work at 11 last night.

November 18, 2017



"I only got off at" isn't even natural English... you need to say "I didn't get off until".


Yeah, I feel the same. I would never say "only" in this context. They seem to use this translation a lot for 才.


Both are perfectly natural English. Perhaps you're not exposed to a wide variety of native English speakers from different places, different ages, etc?


I would be very interested to hear in which countries you think the phrase "I only got off" is "perfectly natural English." It's certainly not American English. In American English we would only ever say "I only" if there was a "because X." For example, "I only got off at 11 last night because someone else came in early."


"I only got off" is not a natural phrase on it's own just like "get off until" isn't. The construction is to do with the "only" before the action and the time. It seems you are admitting you are only exposed to one variety of English. There's nothing wrong with that. Here in Australia both are natural. I assume the same is true for the UK and elsewhere but I'm not an expert so I leave that to people from those places.


Canadian English speaker here (but also heavily influenced by American English living so close to the U.S. border) and I agree with you that there's nothing wrong with the English sentence here (I just question whether it's an accurate translation of the Chinese).


It is. Word for word it's essentially "I yesterday evening eleven o'clock only then got off work".

("O'clock" isn't really explicit; "十一点" is more like "at the mark of eleven": "I yesterday evening eleven mark only then got off work".)

Supporting your contention that the English is fine, Oxford says that "only" can be synonymous with "not until":

​ 5. not until
We only got here yesterday.

And Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com have the following entries:

4. a. : as recently as : not before // only last week
// only in the last year did she get recognition

7. no more or no greater than: we met only an hour ago

These definitions of "only" fit with how "才" is defined and used.

Wiktionary gives the following definition of "才":

3. only after; only then; not ... until

Here's the Chinese-English entry in Collins, which has supporting translation examples:

4. (程度低) only
他才学会上网。 (Tā cái xuéhuì shàngwǎng.) He has only just learned how to use the Internet.

Other comments here suggest a lack of understanding of how "only" is used in the sense intended by Duo. Concerns about the misplaced modifier aside, adding a subordinate "because" clause is irrelevant, because it introduces a different context not present without it.

While the idiom probably trumps the explanation, it may be helpful to think about it not as meaning working later than expected (except perhaps incidentally), but about finishing work a somehow remarkable and relatively short amount of time before some other time or event (e.g. before the utterance of the sentence). I explain this further here:


It's not a good or natural translation of the Chinese, because "only" has many meanings and none of them inherently mean an action happened later than expected.

Even the dictionary, shows being translated with "not until" instead of "only."

"I only got off work at 11 last night because my manager let me leave early."

The fact that the sentence can be modified to mean leaving early instead of late should make it obvious that it is not worded correctly.

When "not until" and "only" modify a time, they should be used before the time and not the verb.

I didn't get off work until 11...
I got off work only at 11...

Duo's sentence is wrong. While a dictionary can teach you definitions, it does not teach you where to properly place words in a sentence for each possible meaning. The Chinese 才 has the meaning of "not until."


This may interest you: I possess 3 advanced university degrees in languages and have been speaking English as a native of the USA for well over 70 years and to me the expression "I only got off at 11 last night" is a perfectly acceptable and normal phrase.


It may be grammatically correct. However, its not the most intuitive translation.


It seems intuitive to me, particularly given the "才" in the Chinese.

What's intuitive is often subjective, of course, and others may disagree, but here's some dictionary support:

​ 5. not until
We only got here yesterday.

Now let's imagine changing that to "We only got here last night at eleven." And then, with another substitution, to "I only got off work last night at eleven."

That seems quite natural to me, and it fits with how "才" is used, as demonstrated in the examples in this dictionary entry:


It is often used and would be understood in Australia. I think it is used because it is much quicker than saying "didn't get off until"


I think education level and location factor into whether some people think this phrase sounds natural. The official phrase poorly uses "only" to express working late. Most people in the US would just say "had" to make it clear they worked until a certain time and it was undesirable.

Natural (implicit lateness):
"I had to work until 11 last night."
"I didn't get off work until 11 last night."

Natural (explicit lateness):
"I had to work late until 11 last night."
"I worked late and didn't get off until 11 last night."


With this comment and your other in response to feyMorgana, you seem not to have understood how "only" is used in the intended sense (and to have ignored my English dictionary examples).

This is probably a case where the idiom trumps the explanation, but to understand the sense, it may be helpful to think of it not as being about working later than expected per se (except incidentally), but about finishing work a somehow remarkable and relatively short amount of time before some other time or event (e.g. the time of the utterance). In other words, "only" suggests the relatively meager thing we're left with.

On a similar note, Wiktionary provides the following definition of and example for "only":

3. As recently as.
He left only moments ago.

In general, "only" emphasizes the difference between possibility, presumption, expectation, or ideality on one hand and a lesser reality on the other, with the implied meaning being something like "while it might have been possible, expected, or better in some way for me to have finished work longer ago (and with more time available afterwards), in fact it was only at (or not until) 11 that I actually got off". The cleft structure, "it was only at 11 that...", demonstrates this a little more clearly, but in any event, Duo's use of "only" mirrors the meaning of " 才" quite well.

And it's not "poor" usage, or uneducated. On the contrary, the anecdotal evidence on this page suggests that better educated and better traveled speakers are likely to understand or accept it.

Edit (in response to your further comment below):

While I have some sympathy for style considerations (and I've already briefly discussed the misplaced-modifier phenomenon here), you appear to be trying to turn a personal (and perhaps regional) preference into a general rule, and apparently you don't trust Oxford, which is practically synonymous with "English dictionary". In particular, you haven't dealt with this, which is the very same structure:

​ 5. not until
We only got here yesterday.

In any event, I'm content to stick with my own well-considered, native-speaking, dictionary-supported sense of it.


It's not about working later than expected per se

You are entirely wrong. The Chinese 才 is 100% about an action happening later than expected. It stated exactly that in the tips section.

To say that something happened later than expected, say 才 (cái, only) after the time and before the verb. https://www.duolingo.com/skill/zs/Invitation-2/tips

I'm a huge fan of Collins' dictionary which is UK based. I trust their translations and their examples.

It was not until 11 last night that I finished working.

It was only at 11 last night that I finished working.

Those are well written and naturally phrased sentences that show how "not until" and "only" can be interchangeable.

"I only got off work at 11 last night" is not naturally phrased. The word selection and arrangement make for a poor sentence and a poor translation.

It is understandable that a non-native English speaker would advise that 才should be translated as "only." However, the educated people who work for Collins disagree.

Knowing how to quote a definition and knowing where words should be placed in a sentence are two very different things.


I totally agree with you.


Actually, yes, that is perfectly natural English - A native English speaker with Bachelor's degree in English


Hi There, This is not natural in any state or form, not to be rude where are you taking English classes?


I don't take English classes. I'm a 50 year old native speaker. Do you think English is only spoken in 50 "states"?


Even if he does think that, he's still wrong. I've heard it said that way many times in the US, in a number of different states.


"I only got off at..." is a perfectly OK English phrase. The alternative "I didn't get off until..." is of course also acceptable.


Thats exactly how i speak. But i guess it is because I am not a native English speaker... in my native language we say it that way


Strongly agree.


Agree with liv.


"Last night I only got off work at eleven" should be accepted as well, reported on Nov. 18, 2017.


Thank you very much for including the date (commented on Nov. 11, 2018)


This is extremely frustrating!!! There's absolutely no difference between "last night at 11" and "at 11 last night"


Suggest that your option is also accepted! :-)


I used "yesterday evening" instead of "last night" and it was marked incorrect


Me too.... it's been more than 3 months :(


There's a mistake in one of the proposed correct answers: I submitted "I didn't get off work until 11 pm yesterday evening", which IS correct, but which was flagged incorrect. The proposed correct answer was: "I didn't get off work until 11 pm *yesterday night." This is wrong. We do not say "yesterday night" in English - that is very unnatural. We say "last night" or "yesterday evening".


How about "I only finished work at eleven yesterday night."?


"Yesterday night" sounds bizarre to me. I would say "last night." (I'm from New Zealand.)


yeah, that feels like a much more natural translation for UK english


Yesterday night? Last night still sounds better to me. But as for other parts, I agree with you.


Not in Australia.


You can say "yesterday night" but it's not used/heard very much amongst native English speakers probably because it's too many syllables. ;-)


This is kind of an awkward English translation.


Cai has a negative connotation here as in: I didn't get off work until 11


May I ask you if Cai also indicates past time?


No, 才 here is best understood as "not until" http://dictionary.reverso.net/chinese-english/%E6%89%8D 昨天晚上 indicates the time frame.


I didn't get off work until 11 o'clock last night.


Should this also accept "I didn't get off ... until ..."?


"I didn't get off work yesterday until 11 o'clock" was rejected. In my haste I forgot to put the evening in there but think that would have been fine otherwise


No. It's missing information. There are two 11 o’clock in a day.


Would using pm be incorrect?


It should be. In fact I learned that from elsewhere in this course and always suggest it where it's not accepted.


"Yesterday I didn't get off work until 11 pm." should also be acceptable.


you need "evening" or "night." (Even though it's implied by "pm," it's not actually translating the Chinese even if it makes logical sense, unless you have "last night" or "yesterday evening.")


I'm not aware of a way to translate 11 p.m. into colloquial Chinese other than "晚上十一点". Are you?

In other words, the back translation doesn't need any more information than AlyciaPete provided.


"Finished work" should also be accepted. I have never used the expression "got off work" in my life.


"I only finished work at 11pm last night" sounds correct to me too.


I have used both all my life. Both should be accepted.


To me "got off work" sounds informal, and both should be accepted.


It's definitely a bit less formal but not very informal. Definitely something people of a range of ages and classes use.


I got off work only at 11 last night. - should be accepted.


Certainly. While it's more common to put "only" before the verb, there it can technically suggest that getting off work was the only thing you did at eleven, whereas your sentence (which sounds completely natural to me) more clearly states that it was only at 11 that you got off work.

Many would consider Duo's structure to be an example of misplacement of the modifier, though it happens to be how most people construct sentences with "only".


Now, to me this would not sound natural. The ways to say this with "only" needs the "only" in the second position. Other positions don't sound right. Unless somebody from the UK says otherwise?


That's a bizarre word order.


I was only able to get off work at 11 last night.

'I only got' sounds like you were expecting more or to get off later than 11pm.


Apparently the "only...at" is not well known in the US these days. We would also say things like "I only got home an hour ago" with the same kind of meaning.


Yesterday night?? Never heard


You've never heard it because it is unnatural and wrong. We don't say *yesterday night, just "last night" or "yesterday evening". Duo needs some more native speakers working on their course, haha


I think this is because Duolingo must not pay the people who work on the courses so they take who is 差不多?


"I only finished work yesterday at 11 pm" wasn't accepted because it wanted to include 'night' - "yesterday night at 11 pm" - but using pm already indicates that it is at night time


My answer "yesterday evening I only left work at 11" was marked wrong, but "yesterday NIGHT I only left work at 11" was offered as a correct translation. This is a bit inconsistent! My sentence is simply a more strict version of the "correct" one...


What's the difference between "evening" and "night"...I translated "wanshang" as "evening" but was wrong because it was "night"?


Your word-for-word translation is right. It's the sentence context that changes it. If you're just looking at single word translations, 晚上 =evening. 夜里=night. However, I don't know any English speaker who would call 11pm "evening." Where I'm from (US), 11pm is definitely "night." However, Chinese speakers use 夜里 a lot less often and for a more restricted timeframe than English speakers use "night." When I asked my Chinese teacher about this, she said that 夜里 sounds "spooky," similar to saying "in the middle of the night" or "in the dead of night" in English. So Chinese speakers will use 晚上 to describe later times than English speakers would use "evening."


I only got off work last night at 11. Marked wrong but should be accepted as perfectly good English.


"I only got off work last night at 11" is a correct translation and should be accepted. It was marked wrong.


"I only got off work last night at 11" should be accepted.


I agree with most of you, this translation is a bit strange.

I'm not fluent yet (which is why I'm using Duolingo, so please correct me if I'm mistaken), but I have taken some Chinese classes at a university, and I leaned how to use 才 there. My teacher told us that 才 bears a strong resemblance to "not ... until" in English. Even though a direct translation between "才" and "not until" makes English sentences a bit clunky, it usually conveys the meaning of the sentence more effectively than translating "才" into "only".

Here are three instances where 才 is used in a sentence (I wrote the first two):

你昨天三点才吃午饭了。-> You did NOT eat lunch UNTIL 3 o'clock in the afternoon yesterday.

他每天十一点才回家。-> Every day, he does NOT come home UNTIL 11 o'clock.

他才学会上网。-> He did NOT learn how to use the Internet UNTIL [just now]

Here's an entry for 才 on Collins Dictionary if that helps: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/chinese-english/%E6%89%8D


i don't believe you would say "pm" when speaking because of the use of night


Yes it looks like they've fixed that. The default English currently uses just "last night". It should accept either that or with PM and not with both together as they used to have it.


It is very strange that the word "ONLY" has to be used here.


It seems to be regional. Here in Australia we'd say it the way with ONLY...AT or the way with NOT...UNTIL. From the comments here in the US only the latter is used.


We say "only...at..." in the US as well. It is more informal, though.


I agree. It sounds more informal to me in Australia too.


I wasn't aware this course was for two languages, what's the language Duolingo wants us to answer in? Because it's certainly not English. XD


Your Chinglish will improve with practice :-)


"I didn't finish work until 11 o'clock yesterday evening." Rejected, because of course it is. Because i didn't go hyper colloquii and say "get off work"...


11:00 should be the same as 11


Is "I only got off work last night at 11" incorrect?


It's fine, and several people have tried it, as you can see from other comments. Hopefully the Chinese team will add it as an option.


Thank you for the reply!


People in Georgia and California might say it this way.


The right translation is : "I didn't get off work until 11 last night." That's proper English!!!


I didn’t get off work until eleven last evening. = Rejected.: 23 feb. 2020.


Reported that "I finally finished work at 11 o'clock last night" should be accepted. I then tested "I only finished work at 11 o'clock last night." and that was accepted.


i didn't leave work last night until 11:00. There is no reason for that to be wrong that I can think of.


The sentences in this section are awful


Even if "I only got off work at 11 last night" is grammatically correct, I feel like they should also allow "I didn't get off work until 11 last night" as I know for a majority of the people that's the first translation that comes to mind.


Of course it should, but doesn't it by now? If not, it should continue be reported, and it will eventually be added.

Tens of thousands of sentence variations have been added to the Chinese course since it first came out in beta form.


Only? No one talks like that.


I got off work at 11 last night


Too simple. The notion of "才" has to be translated somehow.


In english the sentance "I only got off at 11 last night" doesn't imply that someone got off work late the day before which is what I assune the chinese sentence was trying to say.


This is a horrible chinglish translation.


Are these translations from a sub-par budget google translate?


This is driving me insane please fix it


The order I gave is certainly acceptable in English


Perhaps you'd like to tell us what that order was...


WTF again "wrong" for putting words in different order...


you know there are some words/sentences that just can't be translated from one language to another... maybe that's the case here

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