How to Use 的 (HSK 1)

July 14, 2021

The particle de 的 in Chinese has a few different uses. Here, we cover how to use de 的 for possession and de 的 with adjectives.

The particle 的 in Chinese is used to indicate possession. It acts a bit like ‘s in English for expressing ownership. The grammatical structure for using 的 to express possession is:

Noun/pronoun + 的 + noun

Let’s look at a few examples:

这是大卫的书。
Zhè shì Dàwèi de shū.
This is David’s book.

她的狗叫小白。
Tā de gǒu jiào Xiǎo Bái.
Her dog is called Xiao Bai.

那个饭馆的菜很好吃。
Nà gè fànguǎn de cài hěn hǎochī.
That restaurant’s food is delicious.

Note that when the noun that follows the possessive particle的is a close personal relationship (such as family, friends, or significant others), you can omit 的 from the sentence. For example:

她是我的妈妈。
Tā shì wǒ de māmā.
她是我妈妈。
Tā shì wǒ māmā.
She is my mom.
他是我的男朋友。
Tā shì wǒ de nánpéngyǒu.
他是我男朋友。
Tā shì wǒ nánpéngyǒu.
He is my boyfriend.
玛丽是我的同学。
Mǎlì shì wǒ de tóngxué.
玛丽是我同学。
Mǎlì shì wǒ tóngxué.
Mary is my classmate.

However, for personal relationships which are more formal, the particle 的 should still be used, such as when talking about your boss or teacher:

她是我的老板。
Tā shì wǒ de lǎobǎn.
She is my boss.

张三是我的老师。
Zhāng sān shì wǒ de lǎoshī.
Zhang San is my teacher.

Another use of 的 is for adjectives. 的 is used between a multi-syllable adjective and the noun it describes. The grammar structure for this usage of 的 is:

Adj + 的 + noun

Here are a few examples using 的.

我想买一件漂亮的衣服。
Wǒ xiǎng mǎi yī jiàn piāoliàng de yīfú.
I want to buy a set of beautiful clothes.

小张开很贵的车。
Xiǎo Zhāng kāi hěn guì de chē.
Xiao Zhang drives a very expensive car.

他有一只非常聪明的狗。
Tā yǒu yī zhī fēicháng cōngmíng de gǒu.
He has an extremely smart dog.

You can see that the adjective or adjective phrase before 的 can be as long or complex as you want, as long as it is at least two characters. However, if the adjective is just one syllable, you should omit 的. Have a look at the following examples.

你吃大苹果。
Nǐ chī dà píngguǒ.
You eat the big apple.

手机在高桌子上。
Shǒujī zài gāo zhuōzǐ shàng.
The cellphone is on the tall table.

她是好人。
Tā shì hǎo rén.
She is a good person.