This paper reports an examination of the acquisition of tense-aspect markers in three children acquiring Mandarin Chinese as their first language. Focusing on the earliest markers acquired-ne and Ie-we argue that ne is primarily used as a default tense-aspect marker in early spontaneous speech production. This is an important result for a number of reasons. To the best of our knowledge, this pattern had not been established through any detailed analysis of early child data (around the age of 2) before. In addition, thε Mandarin pattern confirms the existence of default strategies during acquisition of functional morphology cross-linguistically, independently of the classification of the specific language as “morphologically rich" or “morphologically poor."