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How to Use the 'De' Construction in Chinese

By Sujanti Djuanda

Chinese beginners often confuse the use of 得【de】and 的【de】. This beginner information will help you learn how to use the 得【de】construction.

得【de】construction is generally used when you want to say how someone usually does something.

The grammar form is:

Subject + Verb + Object + Verb + 得【de】+ (Negative不【bù】) + Adverb.

In the negative form, 不【bù】is generally placed between 得【de】and adverb.

The first Verb can be omitted in Chinese daily conversation. If the Object is clear to listeners, it can be also omitted. When了【le】is used at the end of the sentence, it usually shows a change of situation.

To learn about 的【de】, you can read Learn Mandarin Grammar: The Use of 'De' and the Corresponding Chinese Character

I. The 得【de】Construction

The 得【de】construction is generally used when you want to say how someone usually does something. Here the verb must be repeated twice.

a. Grammar form:

Subject + Verb + Object + Verb + 得【de】+ (Negative 不【bù】) + Adverb

Example 1:

Older sister cooks very well.

姐姐【jiějie=older sister】做【zuò=cook】菜【cài=food】做【zuò=cook】得【de】很好【hěnhǎo=very well】。

姐姐 做 菜 做 得 很好。

Example 2:

Older sister doesn’t cook well.

姐姐【jiějie=older sister】做【zuò=cook】菜【cài=food】做【zuò=cook】得【de】不【bù=not】好【hǎo=good】。

姐姐 做 菜 做 得 不 好。

Example 3:

He plays the piano very well.

他【tā=he】弹【tán=play】钢琴【gāngqín=piano】弹【tán=play】得【de】很好【hěnhǎo=very well】。

他 弹 钢琴 弹 得 很好。

Example 4:

He doesn't play the piano well.

他【tā=he】弹【tán=play】钢琴【gāngqín=piano】弹【tán=play】得【de】不【bù=not】好【hǎo=good】。

他 弹 钢琴 弹 得 不 好。

II. Tthe 得【de】 Construction - the first Verb is Omitted

In Chinese daily conversation, the first Verb can be omitted.

a. Grammar form:

Subject + Object + Verb + 得【de】+ (Negative 不【bù】) + Adverb

Example 1:

Lily speaks English really well.

丽丽【lìlì=Lily】英语【yīngyǔ=English】说【shuō=speak】得【de】真【zhēn=really】好【hǎo=good】。

丽丽 英语 说 得 真 好。

Example 2:

He doesn’t cook well.

他【tā=he】菜【cài=food】做【zuò=do】得【de】不【bù=not】好【hǎo=good】。

他 菜 做 得 不 好。

b. To emphasize the Object, it can be placed at the beginning of the sentence.

Grammar form:

Object + Subject + Verb + 得【de】+ (Negative不【bù】) + Adverb

Example 1:

Lily doesn't speak English well.

英语【yīngyǔ=English】丽丽【lìlì=Lily】说【shuō=speak】得【de】不【bù=not】好【hǎo=well】。

英语 丽丽 说 得 不 好。

Example 2:

He cooks very well.

菜【cài=food】他【tā=he】做【zuò=do】得【de】很【hěn=very】好【hǎo=good】。

菜 他 做 得 很 好。

III. The 得【de】Construction - the Object is Omitted

If the Object is clear to listeners, it can be also omitted.

a. Grammar form:

Subject + Verb + 得【de】+ (Negative不【bù】) + Adverb

Example 1:

I eat really full.

我【wǒ=I】吃【chī=eat】得【de】真【zhēn=really】饱【bǎo=full】。

我 吃 得 真 饱。

Example 2:

I don’t eat full.

我【wǒ=I】吃【chī=eat】得【de】不【bù=not】饱【bǎo=full】。

我 吃 得 不 饱。

Example 3:

Younger brother runs very fast.

弟弟【dìdi=younger brother】跑【pǎo=run】得【de】很【hěn=very】快【kuài=fast】。

弟弟 跑 得 很 快。

Example 4:

Younger brother doesn’t run fast.

弟弟【dìdi=younger brother】跑【pǎo=run】得【de】不【bù=not】快【kuài=fast】。

弟弟 跑 得 不 快。

b. When了【le】is used at the end of the sentence, it usually shows a change of situation.

Example:

I have already eaten very full.

我【wǒ=I】已经【yǐjīng=already】吃【chī=eat】得【de】很【hěn=very】饱【bǎo=full】了【le】。

我 已经 吃 得 很 饱 了。

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