The 得 Construction
Other terminology: complement marker, complement of degree
Including notes on differences between the 得 construction and affirmative potential verb complements (v + 得 + resultative complement).
The 得 construction can be used in the following three situations.
(1) When you want to describe customary actions. In other words, when you want to say how somebody usually does something. For instance,
tā zú qiú tī de hĕn hăo tā păo de fēicháng kuài
他足 球 踢 得很 好. 她 跑 得 非常 快.
HE FOOTBALL KICK DE VERY WELL SHE RUN DE EXTREMELY FAST
He plays football very well. She runs extremely fast.
(2) The 得 construction can also be used to describe the result of a particular action. Usually a time word (time when) is placed before or after the subject of the sentence, to indicate the action has already taken place. For instance,
zóutiān wănshang wŏ nán péngyou zhōngguó fàn zuò de hĕn hăo
昨 天 晚 上 我 男 朋友 中 国 饭 作 得 很 好.
YESTERDAY EVENING MY MALE FRIEND CHINESE MEAL COOK DE VERY WELL
My boyfriend cooked Chinese meal very well yesterday evening.
(3) They can be used to express the effect of an action and the degree of a stative verb (verb to be + adjective). For instance,
tā shuō de dàjiā dōu kū le
她 说 得大家 都 哭 了.
SHE SAY DE EVERYBODY ALL CRY LE
She spoke to the extent that everybody cried. "Everybody cried" is the effect of what she had said.
zhōngwén nán de wŏmen dōu bù xiăng xué le
中文 难 得我们 都 不 想 学 了.
CHINESE DIFFICULT DE WE ALL NOT WANT LEARN LE
Chinese is so difficult that we don't want to learn any more. "We don't want to learn any more" tells us how difficult the Chinese language is.
tā máng de méi you shíjiān chī fàn
她忙 得 没 有 时间 吃 饭.
SHE BUSY DE NOT HAVE TIME EAT MEAL
She is so busy that she doesn't have time to eat. "She doesn't have time to eat" tells us how busy she is.
As you can see from the above examples, when a stative verb is used in the 得 construction, it is often translated as: so (stative verb) to the extent that ...
The most important thing in a 得 construction is that verbs should always be placed before 得. If a verb is in a pattern of verb-object, then the verb should be separated from the object. For example, if 睡觉 (to sleep) is used in the 得 construction it can be formed in the following four ways:
(1) You must repeat the verb.
s. v- o. v. de adv.
I sleep very well.
(2) It sounds less repetitive if you omit the first verb of the above sentence:
s. o. v. de adv.
(3) If you want to emphasize the object of the sentence, then the object can be placed at the beginning of the sentence and it will be:
o. s . v. de adv.
(4) If the object of the sentence is clear to listeners, which it is in this case, you can just simply say:
s. v. de adv.
The negative form for the 得 construction is 不. 没 is not used, except when the 得 construction is used in the 把 construction. 不 should be placed before adverbs and after 得, but not before verbs, except when the 得 construction is used in comparatives (比 sentences)
s. o. v. de neg. adv. [description ]
He doesn't speak Chinese well.
s. neg. 把/比 o. v. de adv. [description ]
He didn't tidy the room properly.
You don't run faster than I do.
No, 了 for completed actions cannot be used, but time words can be used to indicate the action has already been completed. For example,
wŏ xiăo shíhou rìyŭ shuō de hĕn liúlì
我 小 时候 日语 说 得 很 流利.
I LITTLE TIME JAPANESE SPEAK DE VERY FLUENT
I spoke Japanese very fluently when I was little.
If a 了 appears in the 得 construction, it usually indicates a change of situation.
tā yĭjīng hē de hĕn duō le
他 已经 喝 得 很 多 了.
HE ALREADY DRINK DE VERY MUCH LE
He has already drunk too much. (It implies that he should not drink any more.)
The 得 construction and potential complements serve different purposes, although the word order of these sentence constructions is similar. Sometimes they can be very confusing, especially when those stative verbs which can also be used as resultative complements (such as 好, 清楚 and 对) are involved. For example, the following sentence is ambiguous in meaning.
jīntiān tā xiĕ de hăo ma
今天 他 写 得 好 吗?
TODAY HE WRITE DE WELL MA / BE ABLE FINISH MA
1. Did he write well today? (The 得 construction) / 2. Can he finish writing today? (Potential complement)
An adverbial group in the 得 construction is usually formed by an adverb + stative verb as a combined adverb to differentiate it from a potential verb complement which is just a stative verb. Let’s answer the above question in two different ways.
1. 好 in the 得 construction (the complement of degree):
jīntiān tā xiĕ de hĕn hăo
今 天 他 写 得 很 好.
TODAY HE WRITE DE VERY WELL
He wrote (very) well today.
2. 好 used in potential complement:
jīntiān tā xiĕ de hăo
今天 他 写 得 好.
TODAY HE WRITE BE ABLE FINISH
He can finish writing (it) today.
No, not always. Colloquially, some single-syllable adverbs, such as 多,少,早,晚,快,慢,大,小,贵 and 便宜, can be placed after verbs without 得. In many ways they are similar to resultative complements. 了 is often placed at the end of these sentences to indicate excessiveness and change of situation as in
tā hē (de tài) duō le
他 喝 (得太) 多 了.
HE DRINK (DE TOO) MUCH LE
He has drunk too much.
xiăo wáng lái (de tài) wăn le
小 王 来 (得 太) 晚 了
XIAO WANG COME (DE TOO) LATE LE
Xiao Wang came too late. / Xiao Wang came late.
tā păo (de tài) kuài le
他 跑 (得 太) 快 了
HE RUN (DE TOO) FAST LE
He has run too fast. / He is running
faster (than before).
yīfu zuò (de tài) dà le
衣服 作 (得 太) 大 了
CLOTHES MAKE (DE TOO) BIG LE
The clothes have been made too big.
shū mài (de tài) guì le
书 卖 (得 太) 贵 了.
BOOK SELL (DE TOO) EXPENSIVE LE
The books have been sold at too high a price.
一点儿 and 一些 should be placed after the adverbial groups in the 得 construction.
qĭng nĭ shuō de màn yì diănr
请 你 说 得 慢 一 点儿.
COULD YOU SPEAK DE SLOW A LITTLE BIT
Could you speak slowly.
Or colloquially, you can leave out 得 and say:
qĭng nĭ shuō màn yì diănr
请 你 说 慢 一 点儿.
Please see the notes on “The differences between 得 constructions and 地 constructions” in “The 地 construction”
Translate the following sentences into Chinese.
Change the following affirmative sentences into negative ones.
1. We went to stay at Xiao Wang's place last week, but we didn't have a good time at all.
2. My friend's teacher teaches French extremely well.
3. The shop on the corner sells Chinese wine very cheaply.
4. Last night she sang so badly that everybody left before she could finish her first song.
5. She heard that Mr. Li was much better. She was so happy that she forgot to eat her meal.
6. Lao Zhang has become so fat that I can hardly recognize him.
7. Xiao Ding tidies his room neatly every Friday. That is because his girlfriend visits him every weekend.
8. Yesterday we set off too late so we missed the beginning of the film.
Translate the following sentences, then make them negative.