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

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

瑪麗錢包。

玛丽钱包。

mǎlì de qiánbāo.

Mary’s purse.

 

貓。

猫。

tā de māo.

His cat.

 

一位朋友。

一位朋友。

wǒ de yī wèi péngyǒu.

A friend of mine.

 

  1. Attribution, for describing an object.

Structure: Adjective + 的 + Noun

一件紅色襯衫。

一件红色衬衫。

Yī jiàn hóngsè de chènshān.

A red shirt.

 

一位可愛女孩。

一位可爱女孩。

Yī wèi kě’ài de nǚhái.

A cute girl.

 

  1. Emphasis, to explain a particular detail.

Structure: 是 + … + 的

我們是在韓國長大

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

他喜歡很大聲說話。

他喜欢很大声说话。

tā xǐhuān hěn dàshēng de shuōhuà.

He likes to speak loudly.

 

那個人準確回答。

那个人准确回答。

nàgè rén zhǔnquè de huídá.

That person answered accurately.

 

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

你慢慢走去那裡。

你慢慢走去那里。

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

他說中文說很流利。

他说中文说很流利。

tā shuō zhōngwén shuō dé hěn liúlì.

He speaks Chinese very fluent.

 

你做很好。

你做很好。

nǐ zuò dé hěn hǎo.

You did well.

 

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

Structure: Verb + 得 + Adjective

我看清楚。

我看清楚。

wǒ kàn dé qīngchǔ.

I can see clearly.

 

小狗聽懂。

小狗听懂。

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。

 

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