How to Use 的

November 15, 2019

If you are new to studying Chinese, you may think Chinese grammar is tough. You are not alone!
To make learning Chinese just a little less intimidating, here we explain three ways of how to use 的.

01. Possession

The simplest use of 的 indicates possession. For example:

我的书
Wǒ de shū
I + 的 + book
My book

马丁的手机
Mǎdīng de shǒujī
Martin + 的 + cell phone
Martin’s cell phone

02. Modifying Nouns: Adjectives

This particle can also be used to describe an attribute of an object. For example:

大的苹果
Dà de píngguǒ
Big + 的 + apple
big apple

In these types of sentences, 的 is used to connect the adjective (“big”) with the object (“apple”).

Grammar point: if you know what object you are describing, you can use the adjectival phrase created with 的 to replace the object, as below:

我喜欢苹果,大的好吃。
Wǒ xǐhuān píngguǒ, dà de hào chī.
I + like + apples, big + 的 + delicious
I like apples; the big ones are delicious.

Since you already know you are discussing apples, you do not need to say the word ”apple“ again. Instead, you can simple say “dà de” (”the big ones“).

03. Modifying Nouns: Verbal Phrases

Another common use of the particle is to link an object with a verbal phrase.

Grammar point: a verbal is a verb that acts like an adjective. A verbal phrase is a verb + a few other words that act like an adjective.

For example:

我认识的字很少。
Wǒ rènshì de zì hěn shǎo.
I + know + 的+ characters + very + few
The characters I know are very few.
(I know very few characters.)

Above, the verbal phrase “I know” describes the object “the characters”.

今天来的人很高。
Jīntiān lái de rén hěn gāo.
Today + come + 的+ person + very + tall
The person coming today is very tall.

And in this sentence, the verbal phrase “coming today” works to describe the object “the person”.

In both cases, 的 is used to connect the verbal phrase and the object.

 的 is a useful, flexible character and will appear in many constructions and forms of use. We hope this helps you understand some of this character's most common usages!
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