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de

is a very common particle, used primarily to attach descriptions to what they’re describing.

for connecting descriptions to nouns

adjective + 

Let’s take a look at 男人, which means "man". We know nothing about him - what he looks like, acts like, and so forth. We can use to connect some descriptions to him.

男人
hěn gāo de nánrén
very tall man
善良 男人
shànliáng de nánrén
kind man

This is the fundamental function of - connecting descriptions to things. Throughout the website it, you’ll see it called the “(adjectivizing particle),” because that’s precisely what it does - turns words or phrases into adjectives and links them to a head noun.

白色
báisè de shā
white sand
河流
zuì cháng de héliú
the longest river
快樂 女孩
Tā shì yī ge hěn kuàilè de nǚhái.
She is a very happy girl.

Showing ownership

noun +

Nouns can be descriptions, too. Let’s take 男人 , "that man" from before, but we’ll add 男人 吉他  in order to change it to "that man’s guitar". This time, the guitar is the main subject of focus, while 男人 , as in "man’s", is a description of the guitar and shows the guitar belongs to him.

Essentially, when placed after a noun, acts like a possessive “ ‘s ” in English.

媽媽 衣服
Māma de yīfú
Mom's clothes
男孩
Nà ge nánhái de gǒu
That boy's dog
蘇珊 頭髮
Sūshān de tóufà hěn cháng.
Susan's hair is very long.

The same goes for pronouns, as well. for "I" becoming 我的 for "my", for "she" becoming 她的 for "her", and so forth.

pronoun +

Wǒ de shū
My book
鼻子
Nǐ de bízi
Your nose
手機 壞掉
Tā de shǒujī huàidiào le.
Her mobile phone broke.

Adjectivizing Actions

verb +

Actions can serve as descriptions in the same way:

Lái de chē dōu lái le.
The incoming cars are all already here.
媽媽 穿 衣服
Māma chuān de yīfú dōu hěn guì.
All the clothes mother wears are expensive.

Adjectivizing Clauses

clause +

In English, if we want to make an entire clause (basically, a mini-sentence) into a description, we do this: “I want to read the novel that my friend wrote.” In this sentence, “ my friend wrote” is a mini-sentence (adjectival clause) describing “the book,” connected by “that.” A bit convoluted, yeah?

In Chinese, it’s much simpler. You just put the entire clause in the same spot you’d put any word you’d want to turn into a descriptor. Note the position of this simple adjective:  搞笑 小說 This means, "I want to read that funny novel." Now, simply replace that with a full clause:  朋友 小說 Similarly, this means, "I want to read the novel that my friend wrote."

穿 覺得 適合 裙子
Wǒ xiǎng chuān yī jiàn nǐ juédé shìhé wǒ de qúnzi.
I want to wear a skirt that you feel suits me.

What about this, that, these, and those?

Demonstratives such as and are also modifiers, so where do they fit in to sentences? Often, they come first in the series of modifiers, but sometimes they will come before the head noun. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for it, but the general idea is that the modifier closest to the head noun is the one you’re emphasizing.

眼鏡 女生 講話
Wǒ xiǎng gēn dài yǎnjìng de nà ge nǚshēng jiǎnghuà
I want to talk to that girl with the glasses.
眼鏡 女生 講話
Wǒ xiǎng gēn nà ge dài yǎnjìng de nǚshēng jiǎnghuà
I want to talk to that girl - the one with the glasses.

Nominalize: the implied One!

can also make other parts of speech function as nouns. It creates an impiled “one” as the head noun. For example:  檸檬 哥哥 This means, “The one who eats too many lemons is my brother.” The most common parts of speech that gives this implied "one" to are adjectives, verbs, and clauses.

adjective +

勤奮 取得
Zuì qínfèn de huì qǔdé zuì gāo fēn.
The hardest working one will get the the highest score.
頑皮 我的 學生
Wánpí de bù shì wǒ de xuéshēng.
The naughty ones are not my students.

verb +

撒謊 處罰
Sāhuǎng de dōu huì shòu dào chǔfá.
Those who lied will be punished.
跳舞 我的 姐姐 唱歌 哥哥
Tiàowǔ de shì wǒ de jiějie, chànggē de shì wǒ gēge.
My sister is the one who sings, and my brother is the one who dances.

clause +

喜歡
Wǒ zuì xǐhuān de shì nǐ.
The one I like most is you.
wǒ shuō de chéng zhēn le 。
What I said has come true.

Particle Omission

Sometimes we can omit the particle between a pronoun modifier and its noun. This is possible in the situations below:

1. to express close relationships

哥哥
Nǐ gēge.
Your brother.
老師
Wǒ lǎoshī.
My teacher.
還是
Nǐ jiā háishì wǒ jiā?
Your place or my place?

2. to express relationships with an organization

公司 挪威
Wǒ gōngsī zài nuówēi.
My company is in Norway.
學校
Wǒ xuéxiào hěn jìn.
My school is close by.

There are other, more obscure instances in which can be dropped, but those are best learned through experience. The truth is, adding between an adjective and its noun is never wrong, so, if you're unsure if omitting is acceptable in a certain situation, it's better to leave it in.