The 的 Construction
Other terminology: mark of subordination; attributive
(1) When a noun is preceded by its description, 的 is used.
They are very good friends.
(2) 的 is also used to indicate that a noun after 的 belongs to another noun or pronoun before 的. It is known as the possessive 的. This use of 的 is similar to the use of the possessive apostrophe in English as in:
Mr. Li's book is a Chinese language book.
The noun which is described should always be placed after 的. The description of nouns in the 的construction can take in various forms.
(1) The description can be an adverb + adjective:
This is a very good sentence.
(2) The description can also be a phrase or even a sentence. This construction is like an inverted relative clause sentence in English.
I want to buy a copy of the book which you told me about yesterday.
No, not always. If number measure words are used, they should be placed at the beginning of the description, as in the above sentence. If 这, 那, 哪 and 每 are used, then the combinations of these words and measure words can also be placed after 的:
I want to buy that book which you told me about yesterday.
No, not always. A monosyllabic adjective such as 好,难,热 or 忙 can be placed before a noun without 的 to form an adjective-noun phrase, as in
Normally, if a bi-syllabic adjective or an adverb + mono-syllabic adjective to describe a noun, 的 is needed, as in
In the following situation "possessive 的" is not needed.
A. If a pronoun is followed by a noun of relations and close relationship such as 爸爸, 妈妈, 哥哥, 姐姐, 弟弟, 妹妹 or 朋友, 老师...., 的 is not needed.
B. If a pronoun is followed by a noun of place, to which the pronoun is closely related, such as 家, 国家, 学校 or 班...的 is not needed.
C. If a noun (A) is preceded by another noun (B) which classifies the noun (A), to form a combined noun (C).
A book in the Chinese language. An English dictionary.
Chinese calligraphy. Long distance calls.
Sometimes the nouns after 的 can be left out to avoid repetition, but the omitted nouns should be obvious to the listeners. For instance,
There are many flowers in the garden, red ones, yellow ones, blue ones and white ones.
The omitted noun in the above sentence is "flowers" (花).
I am the one who, alone always does the cooking.
The omitted noun in the above sentence is "person" (人).
The above examples indicate that this use of 的 is similar to the use of "the one who..." in English.
Colloquially, people sometimes describe their occupations by saying what they do, and usually the phrases are in a V-O的 pattern.
If you have to use many nouns to classify the main noun, a 的 is usually placed before the main noun, instead of placing 的 after each noun, as in 我姐姐朋友的老师是我哥哥同学的爱人 My sister's friend's teacher is my brother's class-mate's wife.
When you read more advanced Chinese material, especially newspapers and documents, you will often see some long sentences. It is sensible to find 的 before you start translating. Why? Because all the subjects and objects often appear after 的, but their descriptions, which are placed before 的can be very long.
For 的 used with other expressions, please also see the notes on 是...的.
Fill in 的 where it is necessary.
9. 小王___家___那个___电视___机是我___爸爸___朋友 。
Translate the following sentences into Chinese.
1. My wife's friend likes eating foreign food.
2. Could I have a look at the TV set which you bought yesterday with my money?
3. The sentences which my teacher asked me to translate this morning were very difficult.
4. Last night we went to a Chinese restaurant which was to the north-west of the library. We had a wonderful meal there. (The measure word for meal is 顿 dùn.)
5. Mr. Wang told me that the very interesting novel which you have got belongs to him.
6. What would you like to drink? We've got cold drinks and hot ones.
7. The good ones and bad ones all belong to him.
8. Gubo's older brother has two daughters. The older one is three, and the younger one is only two.
9. Who do these dictionaries belong to? The big one belongs to Gubo, and the small one belongs to Palanka.
10. How many apples have you bought all together? Good ones and bad ones are all together eleven.