The different meanings/significance of de的?

November 28, 2009, 12:20 PM posted in General Discussion

In my very few months learning Chinese, I've seen 的 used in numerous situations. In my grammar book it lists the following uses of 的:

  • Possessive pronouns
  • The "是shi... 的de..." structure
  • As a relative pronoun
  • Highlighting the noun
  • To separate adjectives of more than one character
  • Expressing location
  • The "自己ziji + 的de" structure (my own, your own)

As a Newbie, how many of these should I be familiar with? I've been studying for 5 months, if that's any guidance. I'm only familiar with the possessive pronoun use at the moment. Perhaps 的 could be a future Qing Wen topic? I've noticed there's been a Qing Wen on The 是...的 (Shì Pattern but I can't find any others for now...

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November 28, 2009, 12:55 PM

doodlemonster (I love your name and avatar... is it your doodle?),

I think one of the problems understanding words like 的 is trying to remember 1:1 definitions. But 的 was not invented to corrispond to an English word. It is it's own concept. So I like to look at the list of defintions and find the commonality. What I see with 的 is belonging. In a possesive an item belongs to something else: my car, 我的车。 But my car is blue... 蓝色的车。 The "blueness" belongs to the car. In my mind, a possesive and an adjective phrase are really the same thing here. Most of the time, I can find a relationship between words connected by 的。

I could be completely off. But I do think trying to figure out what a word is in English, rather than trying to grasp it's meaning, is making things more difficult than they need to be. I think the definition is squishy in native speaker's minds. At least that is what I tell myself to make me feel better about the definition being squishy in my mind.

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November 28, 2009, 01:25 PM

Thank you! hehe, yes it is my doodle! ^.^

I think you're right about your little 'theory' there. I do have the tendency to overcomplicate things! Maybe, like you said, finding out what a character has 'in common' with all it's different uses would help me to learn better. I would agree about the squishy thing in native speaker's heads! Like when I asked my Cantonese friend the other day at school, how many tones there were in Cantonese, she just gave me a completely blank look! She had no idea! I thought that was very funny and quite ironic seeing as she's a native speaker yet there's numerous foreign Cantonese speakers who'd had have more of an idea than her! (Although I've heard counting the tones in Cantonese is one of those mysteries! No one has ever given me the same answer or reasoning! hehe) 

Anyway, yes, sorry, a little off topic there! I think I'll try not to be so 'pedantic' with my studies and I'll just have to get used to the idea that Chinese doesn't has very few or no similarities with English so there's no point making links, if you see what I mean!

And just out of interest, if you don't mind me asking, what kind of subscription do you have? I've currently got a basic and have been thinking about moving up to premium for a while now but I wasn't sure if it was worth that money, as $29 a month is a lot for a teenager still at school! But I thought if it was really going to help me with my Chinese through the exercises, vocab lists etc, then it might be worth it. What do you think?

And thank you for your help on 的! ^.^

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November 28, 2009, 01:48 PM

glad to be of help! I PMed you about the subscription.

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November 28, 2009, 01:56 PM

Thank you! :) I've sent a PM back :)

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November 28, 2009, 02:01 PM

Whoops, let me know if you receive it or not because I can't remember if I clicked 'send' before closing the window... :/