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Understanding the Function of 的 in Chinese

In this blog post, we’ll explore the important function of the Chinese word “的.” We’ll break down its usage and understand why it is sometimes omitted in various situations, making your Chinese sound more natural.

The Basics of 的

Let’s start with the fundamental uses of 的:

Showing Possession

  • 的 can be used to indicate possession, following the structure: [Possessor] 的 [Possession].
  • For example, 我的書 (my book) or 她的車 (her car).
1698314456 (56) When NOT to use 的 in Chinese Y
1698314456 (56) When NOT to use 的 in Chinese Y

Describing Nouns

  • 的 is also used to describe nouns or add more details to them. The structure is [Noun] 的 [Description].
  • Descriptions can be adjectives, time words, or phrases.
  • For example, 美麗的花 (beautiful flowers) or 昨天的新聞 (yesterday’s news).
women guo jia
women guo jia

The Choice between 的 and No 的

Now, let’s delve into why sometimes native Chinese speakers omit 的.

Using 的 for Individual Parts

  • When using 的, think of A and B as two separate parts.
  • For example, 新鮮的水果 (fresh fruit) is used like a phrase.

Omitting 的 to Create Compound Words

  • Sometimes, when 的 is omitted, two individual parts stick together, functioning as a single unit.
  • For instance, 新鮮水果 (fresh fruit) where 新鮮 and 水果 are treated as a single word.

Common Words Used Without 的

Certain words are often used without 的 because they naturally form single units:

1. Family Members or Significant Others

  • When discussing relationships with family members or significant others, 的 is often omitted.
  • For example, 我爸爸 (my dad) or 她男朋友 (her boyfriend).

2. Groups

  • When referring to a group, especially one you or others belong to (family, school, workplace), 的 is usually omitted.
  • For example, 我們學校 (our school) or 他們公司 (their company).

3. One-Character Adjectives

  • One-character adjectives modifying nouns by themselves are often used without 的.
  • For example, 好書 (good book) or 高山 (high mountain).

When 的 Is Sometimes Omitted

In some cases, words that are not commonly used as a unit can still omit 的:

1. Using 的 for Clarity

  • When clarity is essential, especially in longer phrases, you might add 的.
  • For example, 昨天的新聞的頭條 (yesterday’s news headlines).

2. Omitting 的 for Conciseness

  • To avoid using too many 的, you can omit it between words treated as a unit in a sentence.
  • For instance, 昨天的新聞頭條 (yesterday’s news headlines).


  • Generally, omit 的 when two words are often used as a single unit in both idea and function.
  • Add 的 when emphasizing the first word.
  • For other words less commonly used together as a unit, normally add 的 to them.
  • Use 的 for clarity in longer phrases and omit it to maintain conciseness.

In conclusion, understanding when to use 的 in Chinese can be a bit tricky, but with practice and exposure to the language, you’ll gain a better grasp of it. So, keep listening and reading more Chinese to enhance your understanding of 的.

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