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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:

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

Some more examples:

Tā shuō de hěn kuài
He speaks very quickly.

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

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

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:

Tā kāixīn de shuō
she said, happily

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:

Lǐ míng de diànhuà – Li Ming’s phone
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

piàoliang de nǚ háizi
beautiful girl

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

For example:

Wǒ ài de rén
the person (who) I love

wǒ kànguò de shū
books I’ve read

chōuyān de rén
people who smoke

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

Nà jiàn máoyī shì nǐ de?
Which sweater is yours?

Hóngsè de
The red one.

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

For example:

Wǒ māmā zuò de cài
the food my mother cooked

yuēkè gài de fángzi
the house that Jack built

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:

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!

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