How to Use 的(de) in Mandarin Chinese – Chinese Grammar

For Chinese learners, de particles are something they must master if they want to learn Chinese well. Among the three de (的, 地, 得) in Chinese, 的 is used most frequently and is the one that most people learn. A lot of Chinese beginners cannot figure out the usage of 的, and they cannot distinguish it from other de particles. Thus, this post tries to give some explanations on how to use 的 in Chinese.

1. Using 的(de) as Structural Particle

In Chinese grammar, 的 is a structural particle, which can come before the noun and after the attributive modifier. The attributive modifier can be a noun, a pronoun, a verb, an adjective, a phrase, or even a sentence.

Attributive Modifier + 的(de) + Noun

(1) Noun/Pronoun+ 的(de) +Noun: indicating possession

For example:

我的爸爸

wǒ de bàba    

my father

 

他们的猫

tāmen de māo     

their cat

 

北京的天气

Běijīng de tiānqì   

weather in Beijing

 

美国的啤酒

Měiguó de píjiǔ   

beer made in America

Note:

When indicating family members or other close relationships, “的” can be omitted:

For example:

我的妹妹   =   我妹妹

wǒ de mèimei = wǒ mèimei  

my sister

 

你的儿子 = 你儿子

nǐ de érzi = nǐ érzi  

your son

 

他的女朋友 =  他女朋友

tā de nǚpéngyou = tā nǚpéngyou      

his girlfriend

 

When indicating an institutional or organizational relationship, “的” can be also omitted: 

For example:

我的家 = 我家

wǒ de jiā = wǒ jiā                     

my home

 

他们的公司 =  他们公司

tāmen de gōngsī = tāmen gōngsī         

their company

 

(2) Adj. + 的(de) +Noun 

For example:

漂亮的女孩儿

piàoliang de nǚháir  

beautiful girls

 

好吃的菜

hǎochī de cài 

delicious dishes

Take notes:

When the modifier is a monosyllable word, “的” can be omitted.

For example:

白的头发 = 白头发

bái de tóufà  =  bái tóufà      

grey hair

 

新的书 = 新书

xīn de shū  = xīn shū          

new books

 

When an adverb appears before the monosyllable word, “的” cannot be omitted.

For example:

很小的房间

hěn xiǎo de fángjiān     

a very small room

很小房间

hěn xiǎo fángjiān  

 

 

很老的电影

hěn lǎo de diànyǐng   

a very old movie

很老电影 

hěn lǎo diàn yǐng

 

(3) Verb + 的(de) +Noun

For example:

吃的东西

chī de dōngxī

something to eat

你想要点儿吃的东西吗?

Nǐ xiǎng yào diǎnr chī de dōngxī ma? 

Would you like something to eat?

 

游泳的季节

yóu yǒng de jì jié

season for swimming

夏天是游泳的季节。

Xiàtiān shì yóuyǒng de jìjié.

Summer is the season for swimming.

 

(4) Phrase + 的(de)+ Noun

For example:

去上海的飞机

qù Shàng hǎi de fēi jī

a flight to Shanghai

今天没有去上海的飞机了。

Jīn tiān méi yǒu qù Shàng hǎi de fēi jī le.

There is no flight to Shanghai today.

 

妈妈做的蛋糕

mā ma zuò de dàn gāo

the cake made by mom

爸爸喜欢吃妈妈做的蛋糕。

Bà ba xǐ huan chī mā ma zuò de dàn gāo.

Dad likes the cake made by mom.

 

2. 的 Phrasein Mandarin

When the noun after “的” is already known or has appeared, the headword (nominal word) can be omitted. This structure is called the “的” phrase in Chinese. The “的” phrase functions as a noun and can be used as the subject or object. Using “的” phrase mainly has following cases:

(1) Prounoun/Noun + 的

这本书是我的。

Zhè běn shū shì wǒ de.

This is my book.

 

我的球是红色的

Wǒ de qiú shì hóngsè de.

My ball is red.

 

(2) Verb + 的

如果你来,吃的、穿的、用的,我这儿都有。

Rúguǒ nǐ lái, chī de, chuān de, yòng de, wǒ zhèr dōu yǒu.

If you come, I have food, clothing and daily necessities (for you).

 

老师一走进来,打的、说话的都停下来了。

Lǎoshī yì zǒu jìn lai, dǎ de, shuōhuà de dōu tíng xià lai le.

As soon as the teacher came in, the students who fought and talked all stopped.

 

(3) Adj. +的

A: 孩子喜欢吃什么东西?

Háizi xǐhuan chī shénme dōngxi?

What do children like to eat?

B: 甜 的

Tián de.

Sweet food.


A: 你喜欢哪种女孩?

Nǐ xǐhuan nǎ zhǒng nǚhái?

What kind of girls do you like?

B: 漂亮的。

Piàoliang de.

Pretty ones.

 

 

(4) Phrase + 的

那个开车的是谁?

Nà ge kāi chē de shì shéi ?

Who’s the driver?

 

妈妈做的是最好吃的。

Mā ma zuò de shì zuì hǎo chī de.

Mom’s cooking is the best.

 

3. Using 的 As Modal Particle

的 is most often used as a structural particle in Mandarin. You can also put 的 at the end of a sentence to indicate that the speaker is sure of what he or she is saying. When it serves this purpose, it expresses a kind of mood, so it is called a modal particle.

你可以的。

Nǐ kěyǐ de.

You can do it.

 

她一定会来的。

Tā yīdìng huì lái de.

She’s definitely coming.

 

我们能搞定的。

Wǒmen néng gǎodìng de.

We can handle it.

 

他不会道歉的。

Tā bú huì dàoqiàn de.

He’s not going to apologize.

 

4. Collocation of  的 in Chinese

(1) 有的(yǒude)…  有的(yǒude)…

有的 + (Subj.) + Predicate, 有的 + (Subj.) + Predicate

Some of…,  and some of…

这家店的衣服有的便宜,有的贵。

Zhè jiā diàn de yīfu yǒude guì, yǒude piányi.

Some of the clothes in this shop are cheap and some are expensive.

 

酒吧里,有的人在喝酒,有的人在跳舞,还有的人在聊天。

Jiǔbā lǐ, yǒude rén zài hējiǔ, yǒude rén zài tiàowǔ, hái yǒude rén zài liáotiān.

In the bar, some people are drinking, some are dancing, and some are chatting.

 

(2) 是(shì)……的(de)

This structure can be used to emphasize any detail that’s related to a past event. , but most commonly it emphasizes time, manner, or place.

Subj. + 是 + [Information to be Emphasized] + Verb + 的

A: 你是什么时候来公司的?

Nǐ shì shén me shíhou lái gōngsī de?

When did you join the company?

B: 我是去年来公司的。

Wǒ shì qùnián lái gōngsī de.

I joined the company last year.


A: 你今天是怎么去上班的?

Nǐ jīn tiān shì zěnme qù shàng bān de?

How did you go to work today?

B: 我是坐地铁去上班的.

Wǒ shì zuò dìtiě qù shàng bān de.

I go to work by subway.


A: 你是在哪儿出生的?

Nǐ shì zài nǎr chūshēng de?

Where were you born?

B: 我是在美国出生的。

Wǒ shì zài Měiguó chūshēng de.

I was born in the USA.

 

(3) 挺(Tǐng)… 的

挺+ adj./verb phrase+的

… is quite, rather, or pretty + adj.

你男朋友挺帅的。

Nǐ nán péngyou tǐng shuài de.

Your boyfriend is handsome.

 

我挺喜欢这份工作的。

Wǒ tǐng xǐhuan zhè fèn gōngzuò de.

I like this job.

 

Bottom Line

The above is the regular usage of 的 in Chinese. In general, there are four point: using 的 as structural particles, 的 phrase, using 的 as modal particle, and collocations of 的. Now, do you know how to use 的 correctly? As usual, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can tell us in the comment section below. We will post more articles on de in Chinese.


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