The 3 Uncomplicated Ways to Use "De"

Even Chinese people get confused about the 3 De’s in Chinese (的, 得, and 地). Be confused no more! It’s not that complicated. In this blog, I’ll try to clarify their different structures and uses. 

1. 的

Use 的(dé: of) to modify nouns. Here are a few of the structures that you can use.

  • Disyllable noun + 的 + noun
    • 玻璃的杯子 (bōli de bēizi - the glass)

    • 秋天的天气 (qiūtiān de tiānqi - the weather in autumn)

  • Pronoun + 的 + noun

    • 我的书 (wǒ de shū - my book)

    • 她的故事  (tā de gùshi - her story)

    • 他们的习惯 (tāmen de xíguàn - their habits)

  • Verb/Verbal phrase+的+noun

    • 吃的东西 (chī de dōngxi - stuff to eat)

    • 参加的活动  (cānjiā de huódòng - event that one attends)

    • 吃土豆的人  (chī tǔdòu de rén - person (people) who eats potato)

    • 教汉语的老师 (jiāo hànyǔ de lǎoshī - teacher (teachers) who teaches Chinese)

  • Adjective + 的 + noun

    • 漂亮的中国画 (piàoliang de zhōngguó huà - beautiful Chinese painting)

    • 甜的鸡尾酒 (tián de jīwěijiǔ - sweet cocktail)

In some cases, when we describe the noun as a subject in a 是 (shì: to be) sentence, we will put 的 at the end and the noun will be omitted.

  • 这个杯子是玻璃的 (zhège bēizi shì bōli de - This is a glass.)

  • 这本书是我的 (zhè běn shū shì wǒde - This book is mine.)

  • 这个老师是教汉语的 (zhège lǎoshī shì jiāo hànyǔ de - This is a Chinese teacher.)

  • 这种鸡尾酒是甜的 (zhè zhǒng jīwěijiǔ shì tián de - This kind of cocktail is sweet.)

      

2. 地

The main use of 地 (dè:the adverbial particle) is to describe verbs/actions using the “disyllable adjective + 地 + verb” structure. 

  • 他轻轻地拍了我一下。(tā qīngqīngde pāile wǒ yíxià - He patted me gently.)
  • 我们飞快地跑出了办公室。(wǒ fēikuàide pǎochūle bàngōngshì - I flew out of the office.)
  • 妈妈慢慢地读完了女儿的信 。(māma mànmànde dúwánle nǚér de xìn - The mother finished reading the letter from her daughter slowly.)

3. 得

We use the structure “(V.)+O.+V.得+Adv.+Adj” to describe actions or comment about actions.

  • 你来得很早。(nǐ lái de hěn zǎo - You came very early.)
  • 她穿得很漂亮。(tā chuān de hěn piàoliang - She is dressed beautifully.)
  • 我(说)汉语说得非常流利。(wǒ shuō hànyǔ shuō de fēicháng liúlì. I speak Chinese fluently.)

The structure “V./Adj.+得+result” is used to make comments with an extreme degree.

  • 她哭得眼睛都红了。(tā kū de yǎnjīng dōu hóngle - She cried (so hard) that her eyes were red.)
  • 我累得不想说话。(wǒ lèi de bù xiǎng shuōhuà - I am (so) tired that I don’t want to talk.)

Maria writes columns for the GoEast Blog on studying Chinese and Chinese language. She completed her MA atBeijing Foreign Studies University and has over 6 years experience teaching Mandarin. She founded GoEast together with Wang Rong in 2010.