Lesson 4: How to Differentiate the Three “De” Particles in Chinese -「的」,「地」and「得」

Office Space

The three “de” particles of Chinese,「的」,「地」and「得」; are all pronounced as “de” with the neutral tone. Even though they sound the same, they have completely different meanings!

 

「的」

In Chinese,「的」is used to show:

  1. Possession, just like “apostrophe s (‘s)” and “of” in English.

Structure: Subject + 的 + Noun

玛丽的钱包。

mǎlì de qiánbāo.

Mary’s purse.

 

他的猫。

tā de māo.

His cat.

 

我的一位朋友。

wǒ de yī wèi péngyǒu.

A friend of mine.

 

  1. Attribution, for describing an object.

Structure: Adjective + 的 + Noun

一件红色的衬衫。

Yī jiàn hóngsè de chènshān.

A red shirt.

 

一位可爱的女孩。

Yī wèi kě’ài de nǚhái.

A cute girl.

 

  1. Emphasis, to explain a particular detail.

Structure: 是 + … + 的

我们是在韩国长大的。

wǒmen shì zài hánguó zhǎng dà de.

We grew up in Korea.

 

 

「地」

「地」works like the suffix “-ly” in English: it turns adjectives into adverbs.

Structure: Adjective + 地 + Verb = Adverb + Verb

他喜欢很大声地说话。

tā xǐhuān hěn dàshēng de shuōhuà.

He likes to speak loudly.

 

那个人准确地回答。

nàgè rén zhǔnquè de huídá.

That person answered accurately.

 

In some situations, single-word-adjectives are repeated twice for emphasis purposes.

你慢慢地走去那里。

nǐ màn man de zǒu qù nàlǐ.

You walk to there slowly.

 

 

「得」

The last one, 「得」, is placed after a verb to indicate:

  1. Adverbs, in order to give more information about the verb.

Structure: Verb + 得 + Adjective/Adverb

他说中文说得很流利。

tā shuō zhōngwén shuō dé hěn liúlì.

He speaks Chinese very fluent.

 

你做得很好。

nǐ zuò dé hěn hǎo.

You did well.

 

  1. Possibility, which means an action can be done.

Structure: Verb + 得 + Adjective

我看得清楚。

wǒ kàn dé qīngchǔ.

I can see clearly.

 

小狗听得懂。

Xiǎo gǒu tīng dé dǒng.

The puppy can understand (from listening).

 

As you might have noticed, both 「地」and「得」can come along with a verb. The best way to remember them:「地」usually appears before a verb, on the other hand, 「得」appears after a verb.

 

 

In summary:

Before a noun, use 的。

Before a verb, use 地。

Before an adjective or an adverb, use 得。