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
weather in Beijing
beer made in America
When indicating family members or other close relationships, “的” can be omitted:
我的妹妹 = 我妹妹
你的儿子 = 你儿子
他的女朋友 = 他女朋友
When indicating an institutional or organizational relationship, “的” can be also omitted:
我的家 = 我家
他们的公司 = 他们公司
(2) Adj. + 的(de) +Noun
When the modifier is a monosyllable word, “的” can be omitted.
白的头发 = 白头发
新的书 = 新书
When an adverb appears before the monosyllable word, “的” cannot be omitted.
a very small room
a very old movie
(3) Verb + 的(de) +Noun
something to eat
Would you like something to eat?
season for swimming
Summer is the season for swimming.
(4) Phrase + 的(de)+ Noun
a flight to Shanghai
There is no flight to Shanghai today.
the cake made by mom
Dad likes the cake made by mom.
2. 的 Phrase in 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
This is my book.
My ball is red.
(2) Verb + 的
If you come, I have food, clothing and daily necessities (for you).
As soon as the teacher came in, the students who fought and talked all stopped.
(3) Adj. +的
What do children like to eat?
B: 甜 的
What kind of girls do you like?
(4) Phrase + 的
Who’s the driver?
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.
You can do it.
She’s definitely coming.
We can handle it.
He’s not going to apologize.
4. Collocation of 的 in Chinese
(1) 有的()… 有的( )…
有的 + (Subj.) + Predicate， 有的 + (Subj.) + Predicate
Some of…, and some of…
Some of the clothes in this shop are cheap and some are expensive.
In the bar, some people are drinking, some are dancing, and some are chatting.
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
When did you join the company?
I joined the company last year.
How did you go to work today?
I go to work by subway.
Where were you born?
I was born in the USA.
(3) 挺(Tǐng)… 的
挺+ adj./verb phrase+的
… is quite, rather, or pretty + adj.
Your boyfriend is handsome.
I like this job.
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.