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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!



In Chinese,「的」is used to show:

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

Structure: Subject + 的 + Noun


mǎlì de qiánbāo.

Mary’s purse.



tā de māo.

His cat.



wǒ de yī wèi péngyǒu.

A friend of mine.


  1. Attribution, for describing an object.

Structure: Adjective + 的 + Noun


Yī jiàn hóngsè de chènshān.

A red shirt.



Yī wèi kě’ài de nǚhái.

A cute girl.


  1. Emphasis, to explain a particular detail.

Structure: 是 + … + 的


wǒmen shì zài hánguó zhǎng dà de.

We grew up in Korea.




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

Structure: Adjective + 地 + Verb = Adverb + Verb


tā xǐhuān hěn dàshēng de shuōhuà.

He likes to speak loudly.



nàgè rén zhǔnquè de huídá.

That person answered accurately.


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


nǐ màn man de zǒu qù nàlǐ.

You walk to there slowly.




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


tā shuō zhōngwén shuō dé hěn liúlì.

He speaks Chinese very fluent.



nǐ zuò dé hěn hǎo.

You did well.


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

Structure: Verb + 得 + Adjective


wǒ kàn dé qīngchǔ.

I can see clearly.



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。

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