Modifying nouns with phrase + "de"

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In addition to linking adjectives to nouns, 的 (de) can also be used to link a whole phrase to a noun, making the already useful 的 (de) even more useful.

With a Noun

As well as attaching adjectives to nouns, 的 (de) can be used to attach whole phrases to nouns. In English this is often achieved with "who" or "that." For example, "the man who went to Beijing" or "the book that I bought yesterday."


Phrase + 的 + Noun

Here the phrase is typically of the form "Noun + Verb." The pattern, by itself, doesn't make clear whether the action happened in the past, present, or future.


  • 妈妈 做 māma zuò de càithe food that mom cooks / cooked
  • 去 北京 火车 qù Běijīng de huǒchēthe train that goes / went to Beijing
  • 你 教 学生 nǐ jiāo de xuéshengthe students that you teach / taught
  • 老板 请 朋友 lǎobǎn qǐng de péngyouthe friends that the boss invites / invited
  • 我 画 wǒ huà de huà the pictures that I draw / drew
  • 他 写 tā xiě de shūthe books that he wrote
  • 妈妈 给 我 买 衣服māma gěi wǒ mǎi de yīfuthe clothes that mom buys / bought for me
  • 客户 问 问题 kèhù wèn de wèntí the questions that the client asks / asked
  • 穿 Prada 女人chuān Prada de nǚrénwomen who wear / wore Prada
  • 不 喜欢 中国菜 老外 bù xǐhuan Zhōngguó cài de lǎowài the foreigners that don't / didn't like Chinese food

Without a Noun

In some cases, it is possible to drop the noun from the pattern, and just use the "Noun + 的 (de)." This is kind of like saying "what Mom made" or "the red one" in English. In Chinese the 的 (de) serves the same purpose as the English word "what." By using this pattern, you can avoid repeating the same noun over and over again unnecessarily. Just be sure the other person is already clear about the "what" you're referring to when using this pattern!


Phrase + 的


Note that for certain phrases, it may be ambiguous what the "what" refers to, and sometimes it could even refer to a "who."

  • 妈妈 做 māma zuò dewhat mom cooks / cooked
  • 我 画 wǒ huà de what I draw / drew
  • 他 写 tā xiě dewhat he writes / wrote
  • 你 教 nǐ jiāo dewho/what you teach / taught

See also

Sources and Further Reading