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Just About To 正要 in Chinese

just about to


Last week, my tutor introduced me to a very helped phrase and grammar structure for Chinese. The gist of the English translation is:




“just when (someone) was going to proceed to do _(this)_,

_(this other thing)_happened (to interrupt).”


We both made up several sentences using this, which I hope you find both useful for reinforcing the concept and having fun creating your own sentences.

Here is some specific vocabulary to help prepare for the sentences:



ㄕㄥ ㄗˋ ,ㄕㄥㄘˊ

(shēng zì, shēng cí)

new character, new word = vocabulary



ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ

(zhèng yào)

to be just about to, to be on the point of



ㄉㄚˇ ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄏㄨㄚˋ

(dǎ diàn huà)

to make a phone call


進來 (click this link if you wan to learn more about how to talk about coming or going in Chinese)

ㄗㄡˇ ㄐㄧㄣˋ ㄌㄞˊ

(zǒu jìn lái)

to walk in, to enter




to be hungry



ㄔㄨ ㄇㄣˊ

(chū mén)

to go out the door, to travel, not at home



ㄒㄧㄚˋ ㄩˇ

(xià yǔ)

to rain



ㄆㄠˇ ㄅㄨˋ

(pǎo bù)

to run



ㄙㄨㄣ ㄗ˙

(sūn zi.)




ㄨㄢˊ ㄧˋ  ㄨㄢˊ

(wán yì wán)

to play a bit



ㄩㄢˊ ㄗ˙

(yuán zi.)




ㄍㄨㄥ ㄗㄨㄛˋ

(gōng zuò)

to work, job



ㄒㄧˊ ㄨㄢˇ

(xí wǎn)

to wash + bowl/small plate = to wash dishes



ㄒㄧˊ ㄨㄢˇ ㄆㄢˊ

(xí wǎn pán)

to wash + bowls and plates = to wash dishes



ㄌㄧˊ ㄎㄞ

(lí kāi)

to leave, to depart



ㄅㄢˋ ㄍㄨㄥ ㄕˋ

(bàn gōng shì)

office, business premises



ㄍㄠˋ ㄙㄨˋ

(gào sù)

to tell, to let know



Next, here is the grammatical structure showing the Chinese characters in place:


(someone) 正要 (this), (something else first or instead)


正要  ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ  (zhèng yào) to be just about to, to be on the point of

正   ㄓㄥˋ  (zhèng) by itself, for this translation, means “just, exactly, right”

要   ㄧㄠˋ  (yào) in this case, means “to desire” or “to want” to do whatever is being referred to next.


You can see from the structure of the sentences below that there can be some variation of how to transition to the second part of the sentence.


Now, here are some sentences:




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄉㄚˇ ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄏㄨㄚˋ) (ㄍㄟˇ) (ㄋㄧˇ), (ㄋㄧˇ) (ㄐㄧㄡˋ) [(ㄉㄚˇ ㄌㄞˊ) (ㄌㄜ˙)]

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) (dǎ diàn huà) (gěi) (nǐ), (nǐ) (jiù) [(dǎ lái)(le.)]

(I) (just about to) (make phone call) (to give) (you), (you) (just then) [(call come)(emphasize completion)]

I was just about to call you, when you called!




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄔㄈㄢˋ), (ㄊㄚ) (ㄐㄧㄡˋ) (ㄗㄡˇ ㄐㄧㄣˋ) (ㄌㄞˊ)

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) (chī) (fàn), (tā) (jiù) (zǒu jìn) (lái)

(I) (just about to) (to eat) (meal), (he) (just then) (to enter) (to come)

I was just about to eat, when he came in.




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄕㄨㄟˋ ㄐㄧㄠˋ) (ㄕˊ), (ㄉㄨˊ ㄗ˙) (ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄉㄧㄢˇ) (ㄜˋ), (ㄒㄧㄤˇ) (ㄔ) (ㄒㄧㄠ ㄧㄝˋ)

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) (shuì jiào) (shí2), (du2 zi.) (yǒu) (diǎn) (è),                                                                        (xiǎng) (chī) (xiāo yè)

(I) (just about to) (to go to bed) (when), (stomach) (to have) (a little) (to be hungry), (to think, to want) (to eat) (midnight snack)

When I was just about to go to bed my stomach felt hungry, so I wanted to eat a midnight snack.




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄔㄨ) (ㄇㄣˊ) (ㄕˊ), (ㄐㄧㄡˋ) [(ㄒㄧㄚˋ) (ㄩˇ) (ㄌㄜ˙)]

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) [(chū)(mén)] (shí), (jiù) [(xià)(yǔ)(le.)]

(I) (just about to) [(to go out)(door)] (when), (just then) [(down) (rain) (intensifier)]

When I was just about to go outside, it started raining.




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄔㄨ ㄑㄩˋ) (ㄆㄠˇ ㄅㄨˋ) (ㄕˊ),

…………(ㄨㄛˇ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄙㄨㄣ ㄗ˙) (ㄨㄣˋ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄍㄣ) (ㄊㄚ) (ㄨㄢˊ ㄧ ㄨㄢˊ)

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) (chū qù) (pǎo bù) (shí),

………….(wǒ3 de.) (sūn zi.) (wèn) (wǒ) (gēn) (tā) (wán yī wán)

(I) (just about to) (to go out) (to run) (when),

………….(my) (grandson) (to ask) (me) (with) (him) (to play a bit)

When I was just about to go out for a run, my grandson asked me to play with him for a bit.




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄑㄩˋ) (ㄩㄢˊ ㄗ˙) (ㄌㄧˇ) (ㄍㄨㄥ ㄗㄨㄛˋ) (ㄕˊ)

…………(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄒㄧㄤˇ ㄉㄠˋ) (ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄉㄟˇ) (ㄒㄧˇ  ㄨㄢˇ)

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) (qù) (yuán zi.) (lǐ) (gōng zuò) (shí),

…………(wǒ) (xiǎng dào) (wǒ) (děi) (xǐ wǎn)

(I) (just about to) (to go) (garden) (in) (to work) (when),

…………(I) (recalled to mind) (I) (must) (wash dishes)

When I was just about to go out to work in the garden, I remembered I needed to wash the dishes.


And here are a couple of sentences that show you can also use the phrase simply to say your are actually just about to do something:




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄌㄧˊ ㄎㄞ) (ㄅㄢˋ ㄍㄨㄥ ㄕˋ)

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) (lí kāi) (bàn gōng shì)

(I) (just about to) (to depart, to leave) (office)

I’m just about to leave the office.




(ㄨㄛˇ) (ㄓㄥˋ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄍㄠˋ ㄙㄨˋ) (ㄊㄚ)

(wǒ) (zhèng yào) (gào sù) (tā)

(I) (just about to) (to tell) (him)

I’m just about to tell him.


Maybe you can try to make up a few sentences of your own? If you put them in the comments, I will choose some to review with my tutor and will add any corrections or clarifications that she gives.

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