Using the “的” Modifier for Possessive Construction Posted by Stephen on Nov 17, 2011 in Vocabulary
As your Chinese improves, adding complexity to your sentences can be tricky without the proper grammar tools. Especially when it comes to descriptions of particular nouns. Fortunately for you, showing ownership or possession in Chinese is quite easy to do grammatically using the modifier “的”.
The Chinese particle “de” (的) is most commonly used as a possessive modifier. It can be used between two nouns to indicate a relationship of possessor / possession. It is roughly equivalent to the contraction “X’s” in English (his/hers, yours, mine, my ours), where X is the subject. I liken it to the Spanish “de” (del or de la) in which it refers to “of the”, but remember the modifier precede the “de” not follows it.
The most basic example of which uses “mine” with a possessive 的:
English: My friend.
Pinyin: Wǒ de péngyou.
This works for nouns in general, including pronouns, people, places and objects. Simply insert the “的” between two nouns or subjects and first subject modifies the second. “的” can be used in varying complexities of sentences with multiple subjects, nouns and even adjectives:
“的” can also be used as a descriptor for nouns by placing the “的” between the adjective (first) and the noun/subject (second). Think of it as “noun of adjective”. A basic example of which pertains to colors:
English: Blue clothing
Pinyin: lánsè de yīfu
Lastly, The “的” particle can be used for emphasis or affirmation by placing it at the end of a sentence (following Subject-verb-object construction). While not used all too often, placing “的” at the end of a sentence (often with a “是” at the beginning) really helps to get your point across, especially if a Chinese speaker is haranguing you. Here’s a simple example:
English: I am going！
Pinyin: Wǒ huì qù de!
Please note however, that with proper nouns and in particular instances of a strong relationship between two people, the “的” modifier is often dropped for speed and ease of language, so long as the context is understood by both the speaker and listener. For example you can say: 他大学 instead of 他的大学 （his university) and people won’t bat an eye.
Give it a try, 我(的)朋友们 (my friends)!
Follow Steve on Twitter: @seeitbelieveit
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