Beginner in Chinese?

Sign up to get a free basic Chinese course complete with MP3 audio, 
plus learning tips and video lessons! 
 
 

Difficult Chinese Characters Explained Simply: 的,得 and 地

The three characters 的 得 and 地 are all pronounced ‘de’, and they’re really important in Chinese grammar.

But the difference stops there.

These characters became common in Chinese when the language became modernised from classical Chinese and more ‘grammar’ characters started to be used.

得 and 地 are simpler to understand, so let’s talk about them first!

得 is used after verbs to give you ‘a bit more information about the verb (as a complement for the verb)

For example:

你说得对
Nǐ shuō de duì
You said it right.
(You said, and moreover, it was right)

Some more examples:

他说得很快
Tā shuō de hěn kuài
He speaks very quickly.

她唱得很好
Tā chàng dé hěn hǎo
She sings very well

It can also come before a complement to a verb that indicates the result of the verb

我听得懂
Wǒ tīng de dǒng
I understand
(I listen and the result is understanding)

她哭得眼睛都红了
Tā kū de yǎnjīng dōu hóng le
She cried so much her eyes were red.

地 is used after an adjective to turn that adjective into an adverb.

It’s often like adding -ly to an adjective in English, like 快 quick 块地 quickly

Some examples:

,她开心地说
Tā kāixīn de shuō
she said, happily

你要认真地听
nǐ yào rènzhēn de tīng
You must listen carefully.

的 is used to connect different parts of a sentence together, and to show the relationship between them.

It’s the number 1 most common character in Chinese, so you need to know about it!

Sometimes 的 is used to show possession, a bit like ‘s in English.

For example:

李明的电话
Lǐ míng de diànhuà – Li Ming’s phone
我的名字 
wǒ de míngzì – my name
你的车 – your car
nǐ de chē

的 can also be used to connect an adjective to a noun (adj. goes in front)

For example:

红色的衣服 hóngsè de yīfú – red clothes
小的酒店 xiǎo de jiǔdiàn- small hotel

漂亮的女孩子
piàoliang de nǚ háizi
beautiful girl

的 can also be used in sentences to express ‘the one(s) who/that’

For example:

我爱的人
Wǒ ài de rén
the person (who) I love

我看过的书
wǒ kànguò de shū
books I’ve read

抽烟的人
chōuyān de rén
people who smoke

的 can also be used on its own with an adjective to mean ‘the xxx one’

那件毛衣是你的?
Nà jiàn máoyī shì nǐ de?
Which sweater is yours?

红色的
Hóngsè de
The red one.

的 can be used as a ‘modifier’ to give you ‘more information’ about the noun.

For example:

我妈妈做的菜
Wǒ māmā zuò de cài
the food my mother cooked

约克盖的房子
yuēkè gài de fángzi
the house that Jack built

去北京的火车
qù běijīng de huǒchē
the train that goes to Beijing

You’ll also sometimes see 的 in ‘if’ sentences with ‘的话’, which is part of the word for ‘if’.

For example:

如果你来的话,我们可以一起玩
Rúguǒ nǐ lái dehuà, wǒmen kěyǐ yīqǐ wán
If you come, we can hang out.

You’ll also see 的 commonly with other characters in ‘words’ – like 是的,
有的 or 好的

是的 shì de
means ‘that is the case’ or ‘yes’

好的 hǎo de
means ‘ok’

And 的 is used in other contexts as well, too many small cases to explain in one video.

But to put it (very) simply, it is generally used to connect different parts of the sentence (different parts of speech) together.

Pay attention to it when you see it, and you’ll probably figure out other examples!

Le (了) Doesn’t Just ‘Mean’ The Past Tense: How To Use Le in Chinese

How to use le in Chinese

A lot of Chinese learners believe that 了 *means* the past tense in Chinese. But that’s not quite true… 了 is not a character with a tangible meaning that can be translated To say it refers to the past tense is too simplistic, it has a number of different usages. 了 often indicates that a […]

Continue reading...

Understand Chinese Measure Words in 1 Video

In English, you would say ‘a piece of paper’ or ‘a kilo of apples’ The ‘piece’ and ‘kilo’ are a bit like measure words in Chinese. In English you wouldn’t say, ‘a piece of phone’ or ‘a piece of shirt’ But in Chinese you need to use measure words like this a lot of the […]

Continue reading...

How to Use Question Words in Chinese

Here are the basic question words you’ll need to know in Chinese:   什么 shénme what 哪里 哪儿 nǎlǐ/nǎr where 哪(个) nǎ (ge) which 谁 shéi or shuí who 什么时候 shénme shíhou when 为什么 wèishénme why 怎么 zěnme how 多少 duōshao how many/much Unlike in English, ‘what, who, where, which, how much’ don’t go at […]

Continue reading...

How to Form Questions in Chinese

There are a few different ways to ask questions in Chinese. One of the simplest is to take a statement and make it into a question by adding the character 吗 ma to the end of the sentence. Some examples: 你是中国人 Nǐ shì zhōngguó rén You are Chinese 你是中国人吗? Nǐ shì zhōngguó rén ma? Are […]

Continue reading...

Chinese Conversation Clips – WeChat, the Most Popular App in China

WeChat and apps in China

English translation of video content: Chris: And there is one app that we can call a super app. It’s called WeChat. Can you tell us what kind of app WeChat is? Becca: I first came into contact with WeChat in around 2011 or 2012. At that time, WhatsApp was already really popular outside China. But […]

Continue reading...

Chinese Conversation Clips – Chinese Foods You Have to Try

Chinese foods have to try

English translation of video content: Chris: OK. So if you come to China and want to eat out, is there any dishes that you must order, or dishes that you recommend, apart from hot pot, which we’ve talked about already? Becca: I think if you come to Beijing you should definitely try Beijing Roast Duck, […]

Continue reading...

Chinese Conversation Clips – The Best Universities in China

Top Universities in China

English translation of video content: Chris: So, can you tell us what famous universities there are or what good universities there are in China? Which universities do you think are the good ones? Becca: In the comprehensive university ranking of Chinese universities, Peking University and Tsinghua University rank first and second, they are still in […]

Continue reading...

Chinese Conversation Clips – Primary School in China

Primary School in China

English translation of video content: Chris: This time we will discuss what kind of experience it is going to school in China. Let’s start from primary (elementary) school. First let me ask a relatively simple question, that is, in China, at what age do children usually start school? Becca: Usually around the age of seven, […]

Continue reading...

Chinese Conversation Clips – Chinese Liquor (Baijiu)

Conversations in Chinese Baijiu Liquor

English translation of video content: Chris: First question, what kind of alcohol do Chinese people generally drink? Becca: In fact, the most famous type of Chinese liquor is“Baijiu” It is a kind of thick and transparent liquid distilled from grain. Chris: Is it because of its transparency that it is called “Baijiu”? Becca: Yes, it […]

Continue reading...