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  5. "我们很忙,下午四点才吃午饭。"


Translation:We are busy, we only ate lunch at 4 pm.

November 24, 2017



You either say 4pm or 4 in the afternoon. Come on!


Maybe they want you to type "4 p.m."


are you interested in learning Chinese or in bickering?


Memorizing exactly which variety of broken English to pass each question on the test distracts from learning Chinese. These discussions lead to improving the course and making it less frustrating to all who use it in the future.


This rather patchy program won't even take: " We are so busy, we only got to eat lunch at 4 in the afternoon"

I mean what on Earth is the difference with their preferred answer?

Maybe when you get to having completed every lesson to number 25, like me, you'll start to realise it really grates on your nerves. And they have done nothing to improve the limited English answers in more than a year. This course is definitely being neglected. Might be free but it drives you mad getting things wrong that you know that you have got wright and fully understood from the Chinese sentences.


All the courses on Duolingo are created and moderated by volunteers. As these sort of things go, volunteers won't always have time to be around all the time. Try to keep this in mind. I've had reported answers of mine get accepted 2, 3, 4, plus years later. If you reported your answer, then just move on by typing in the accepted answer next time.

(Btw, I think you meant that you typed "wright" instead of "right".)


Sorry replace the write with right last sentence.


I, personally, am interested in both.


I would say "we didn't eat lunch until 4PM"


It clearly states in the grammar section of this lesson that this would be a good translation for 才, and it is accepted in all the other sentences of this lesson, so it should also be accepted here.


This does not even accept the example translation from the grammar section (which it shouldn't because "4 pm in the afternoon" is terrible English)


才 indicated not until. Poor english word choice.


"4pm in the afternoon" is unnatural. It should be "4 in the afternoon"


I agree, "4 pm in the afternoon" is redundant. It should be "4 pm" or "4 in the afternoon".


If you say 4 pm it's implied it's in the afternoon


4 PM isn't just implied it's in the afternoon, it's the ONLY option. There is no time when 4 PM isn't in the afternoon.


"We're so busy we didn't eat lunch until 4 pm" should be accepted.


"We are so busy we had lunch at 4 o'clock in the afternoon" is what I put. Same idea, trying to match what I thought Duo might like. This has too many ways of being said that are as good or better than the accepted answer. I think it should only be offered in multiple choice format.


I am inclined to agree; "we are so busy..." should probably also be accepted.


I agree. It is difficult to predict how they wish to have it translated. All teaching methods use different translated forms.


I agree with you hippietrail. The use of 才 emphasizes how long it took until one (finally) got to do something. So 'we didn't (get to) eat until 4' should also be accepted.


"... lunch at 4 o'clock in the... " Is corrected into "... Lunchat 4o'clock in the..." telling that I typed an unnecessary space.

Is that true? Does o'clock same as PM not require a space ahead?


There should always be a space before "o'clock".


Dictionary's show a space between the number and the word. I have not read any books, magazines or newspapers without the space. I am in the U.S.


"very" should also be able to be "really". "We only ate lunch at" can also be "we didn't eat lunch until"


What implies past tense here?


I think context. It'd be weird to say "We won't eat lunch until 4". But maybe 才 also implies past?


It looks like it, I would love a confirmation though


The tip section for this skill says 才 is for past tense, but it does leave me with some questions. Google translate uses 才 for "until" even when the event has not happened already. Their translation also adds 直到 (zhídào), which also means until.

"We are busy, we are not eating lunch until 4pm." (present, future)
"We are busy, we didn't eat lunch until 4pm." (present, past)

Both English sentences translate to this: 我们直到下午4点才吃午饭。

To say that something happened later than expected, say 才 (cái, only) after the time and before the verb. Even though in English we might say that we didn’t do something until a certain time, you would never use 才 in a negative sentence in Chinese.



The first clause should accept adding "very" and omitting it


4pm in the afternoon as opposed to 4pm when? In the morning?!


Where in the original sentence does it imply past tense? There is no completion marker after 吃.


Also, "very" shouldn't be required in the translation as it is not required in other translations with 很 preceding a single-character adjective.


The "only" has no place in this sentence


No, "only" (or till / until) needs to be there to show that it's later than usual. It's much more common to say "we didn't eat lunch (un)till..." than "we only ate lunch at..." but 才 is an important part of the information in this sentence and needs to be translated. I think for simplicity Duo has gone with "only" because it also covers the other shades of 才.


All of the sentences where Duo uses "only" in place of "not until" are poorly worded. For this meaning of 才, "only" and "until" should be placed directly before the time.

"We did not eat lunch until 4pm."
"It was not until 4pm that we ate lunch."
"It was only at 4pm that we ate lunch."

Putting "only" before the verb and not the time changes the meaning.

"We only ate sandwiches at 4pm."
"We only ate lunch at 4pm."

This format modifies the verb and not the time. It means the only thing eaten at 4pm was lunch, not that it was only at 4pm that you ate lunch.


才 indicates 'only' 她才会 - she will only 她会 - she will


'Did not' is the same as 'didn't' usually


"We are busy, it's 4 p.m. and we're just eating lunch" should be accepted, nothing in the sentences indicates past tense.


we were very busy... not we are very busy.


Why did it use 'ate' instead of 'eat'? There was no 了 at the sentence


The content of the sentence implies they are talking about a past situation. Even though no了 was present, there was not any indication of future action or on going action.

we only eat lunch at 4 in the afternoon - a statement about a time when you eat lunch

we only ate lunch at 4 in the afternoon - a statement about something that already occurred

I would not phrase it in that manner, as you can see from the comments there are many ways to say it. Hope that helps.


I don't see the context placing it in the past. Can you explain that more?


I think if 才 was not present, then it could be future tense.

才 has a lot of meanings. A native Chinese speaker could clarify this better, I will try. In this context there would be four options (maybe more)

1 - only
we -only- ate lunch at four in the afternoon (I personally don't like this one)

2 - only then, 3 - just now

4 - not until (if preceded by a clause of condition or reason)
So 'we are busy' would be the condition. You could say 'we did not eat lunch -until- 4 in the afternoon'.

I also believe the first part '我们很忙‘ could be translated as 'we were busy'.
I translate this as 'we were busy, we did not eat lunch until four in the afternoon'.

'we are busy' is valid in the proper context. You could be at work stating that 'work is busy', so you did not eat until then.

I hope that helps.


"We are very busy and did not eat lunch until 4 in the afternoon" was not accepted because I didn't use the contracted form of "did not"


"We are busy we didn't eat lunch until 4 in the afternoon" aaaargh. This must be the pickiest module in the entire course. I'm sorry i can't remember the exact wording evrty time i go round, but this is so frustrating.


Instead of we only ate, should we just ate or we finally ate work? Thanks.


Only and finally work but not "just". That implies you ate only moments ago, in which case you wouldn't be saying what time it was because it would still be pretty much the same time.


This compulsory "4pm in the afternoon" is utterly ridiculous !!!


Some of these exercises with 才 require 'not…until' and others 'only'. It's very frustrating trying to remember which is which--instead of learning the Chinese phrases I'm memorising which arbitrary English answers we need.


Translations of this sentence are currently only accepting “till” or “until”.

These other variations need to be accepted (not marked wrong):



  • 210

I wrote ''We only ate lunch at four". The word ''lunch'' is already a time indicator, so ''in the afternoon'' or ''PM'' is redundant.


What is wrong about "we are busy we did not have lunch until 4 pm"?


As an English speaker, I would say that is acceptable.
I think they wanted the word 'only' because they used 才. We can convey the same meaning without using 'only. Report it.


this sections is awful...


The lesson notes explain that 'we only ate lunch'.... is the Chinese way of saying 'we didn't have lunch until.....


my answer was ok you bum bum had lunch vs ate lunch

you are literally out to lunch Duo


I remember learning that "才“ meant until, or something was later than the speaker expected wayyyy back in Chinese I. This "only" stuff is a little confusing and not the best translation. :/


Took me about 10 attempts to get this accepted!!!


possibly the worst sentence i have seen in my life


I sometimes think that even though there are many errors on this app, it encourages one to investigate the mistakes by doing research, thus gaining more knowledge .. If we don't learn from our errors or someone else's errors, we will learn nothing!!!


This is how someone who is a native speaker in both Chinese AND English will translate this:

"We are very busy, (and we) didn't eat lunch until 4:00 in the afternoon."


The confusion that many of the learners are having here is that it is NOT STATED whether it is past tense or present tense.

You can character-for-character Chinglish this as, "We very busy, 4 PM until we eat/ate lunch."

In an actual conversation, it is STRONGLY implied to be past tense without a time phrase, such as "Earlier today, we didn't eat lunch until 4PM" or "Every workday, we don't eat lunch until 4PM."

That is why it is unclear to foreign language learners and why it should be modified if it is to be allowed in a practice sentence.


"We are very busy, we did not eat lunch until 4 in the afternoon" was marked incorrect. the only correction was changing "did not" to "didn't". I have reported it


"We are very busy, we didn’t eat lunch until 4o'clock ." I used the wrong word because I spelled four instead instead of using 4?!?! Good grief!


Model answer 4o'clock is incorrect: space needed after 4


For "till" meaning until, the spelling <til> should definitely be accepted. Wiktionary lists both <til> and <till> as accepted spellings in this case; i prefer <til>, by analogy with <until>.


Make sure you report those differences; i.e. 'did not' for 'don't'.
Depending on how you structured your answer, sometimes 'very' is required and sometimes it is not. So report those answers. I do not think many english speaker would phrase the answer in that manner, it sounds a little off (OK, unnatural).


"We are very busy. We didn't eat lunch until 4 o'clock in the afternoon." was accepted but the correct version showed "We are very busy. We didn't eat lunch until 4o'clock in the afternoon." (missing space). There is no option to report this error as the sentence was accepted.


I added 4 o"clock why was not accepted?


4 o’clock or 4 o”clock ? :)


It is, among other issues, only accepting "We are very busy..." even tho' "We are busy..." should be a better translation; 很 hěn before an adjectiv usually means is/am/are more than "very". (In effect, hěn could be considered another word for "to be" [a 'copula'] in Chinese, along with 是 shì. Likewise, Spanish has two copulas, ser and estar.)


Apparently "four in the afternoon" is correct but "four o'clock in the afternoon" is not.


I wrote "We only ate lunch at four in the afternoon, We are so busy." Got marked wrong though.

Why do they put commas in the actual question yet resort to full stops for the English answers?

Surely this is a bit misleading.

Also don't we say in English "We were busy. We only ate lunch at 4 in the afternoon". Otherwise the tenses are a bit weird.


Yeah, really... I'm at level 23 in Chinese and in the past six months or more have sent Duolingo literally hundreds of suggested correct answers by now. At this stage of the game, it's annoying to have to memorize the exact awkward wording that is acceptable... Please fix these glitches. Thanks


I've been away from Chinese for a little while now and I continue to get messages that my suggestions are now accepted. It's frustrating that are so many, and it takes a while to get through them all, but they're working on it.


I wrote " we are busy, so we were only able to eat lunch at four in the afternoon" marked wrong. -____-


I tried multiple variations on this, and it felt like an exercise in remembering the exact phrasing that they wanted. My suggestions for improvement: 1) 4pm (post meridiem) is literally equal to "four in the afternoon," as common if not more so in daily life, and way shorter to type. 2) Tense issues. Unless I'm missing a past tense element of 才,it seems like there's no reason to think it must be in the past. I might be having a week where "I'm so busy I'm not able to have lunch until 4pm," which has happened to me, justifying the present tense. 3) Some questions seem to accept or even require "have" as a synonym for "eat," but it's really spotty. Sometimes, the questions fault me for saying, "I had chicken for dinner" rather than, "I ate chicken for dinner." Consistency is a virtue.


I was confused about the distinction between cai and zhi and this video does a good job https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebwgMkQ3jMo Essentially it says that the best way to think of cai is like "only just" Eg (I only just learned it = 我才学会它 (Wǒ cái xuéhuì tā) [google will say caigang 才刚 but you don't need to add gang] ...whereas zhǐ is more for "only" [Eg I only have $3 我只有3美元 (Wǒ zhǐyǒu 3 měiyuán)


Oh, so just to add to the above, for our example as I understand it, the "only just" has an implicit meaning of "...couldn't do until...." So if you said I only ate 4 french fries, then you'd use zhi. But if you say I only ate at 4 pm, it is implicit that you couldn't eat until 4 pm. Please correct me if I'm being overly reductive here but that's how I understand it.


Why is it past form? "we are busy, we only eat lunch 4 pm " - is it wrong?


Pleco shows one of the definitions for 才 as 'a moment ago' or when preceded by an expression of time - 'not until'
Nevin711542 has a link to a video with an explanation


We are busy, we are only able to lunch at 4 pm. = Rejected.: 17 feb. 2020.


How does the Chinese in this sentence indicate that it's past tense?


see my reply to 'woa7dSD5' under "hallojanelle'''s question.


4 o clock is marked wrong too


How do you know its past tense?


Nevin711542 (a post above) has a link to a video with an explanation, he also has a brief explanation.


If it is said: "we only ATE lunch" then it should be:" We WERE busy". However my answer was rejected. That's not possible we are bussy today that's why we ate lunch at 4 pm yesterday.


where is the le indicating a past event?


Le is NOT for tense, and that is a common mistake even by Doctoral students. Le is for status changes.

Cai2 here is used not to denote tense, but to denote that the verb happened later than expected. This is the only use of this character. It's opposite, Jiu4 is used to denote that the verb phrase is earlier than expected.


In common English the second "we" is not needed. Should be accepted as correct.


The accepted English translation is grammatically incorrect. "only" should directly precede the concept it is modifying. The sentence isn't saying that nothing other than eating happened at 4; it's saying that eating happened no sooner than 4.

"We only ate lunch at four in the afternoon" means "We only ate lunch (and didn't prepare it, or sell it, or look at it, or anything else) at four in the afternoon."

The correct translation is "We are busy. We ate lunch only at four in the afternoon," or alternately "We are busy. We ate lunch at only four in the afternoon." Either of these correctly says that the eating was delayed until 4 because we were so busy.


No - you are conflating modification with emphasis. In English, adverbs are often positionally flexible, changing emphasis without changing the meaning (eg 'often go' and 'go often'). "I only ate at 4" and "I ate only at 4" are really no different, just distinguished by emphasis (and by the fact that we, by habit, usually use 'only' before the verb, but do not have to). It still modifies 'ate'. Your "We ate lunch at only four" is quite different and I would argue it is grammatically problematic because your preposition 'at' lines up 'only' as an adj but it should stay an adv


I hav said this before: the spelling should be accepted. Both spellings, and (for until) are accepted English; i prefer by analogy with .


The "only" in the answer shouldn't be needed. Reported 2018-08-14


It is needed because 才 carries a "no earlier than" or "no sooner than" or "only [time X], which was so late" sense. It's grammatically correct without the "only," but it's a different meaning.

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