Modifying nouns with phrase + "de"
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 的 菜 the food that mom cooks / cooked
- 去 北京 的 火车 the train that goes / went to Beijing
- 你 教 的 学生 the students that you teach / taught
- 老板 请 的 朋友 the friends that the boss invites / invited
- 我 画 的画the pictures that I draw / drew
- 他 写 的 书 the books that he wrote
- 妈妈 给 我 买 的 衣服the clothes that mom buys / bought for me
- 客户 问 的 问题 the questions that the client asks / asked
- 穿 Prada 的 女人women who wear / wore Prada
- 不 喜欢 中国菜 的 老外 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 的what mom cooks / cooked
- 我 画 的what I draw / drew
- 他 写 的what he writes / wrote
- 你 教 的who/what you teach / taught
Sources and Further Reading
- HSK Standard Course 2 (pp. 84) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (pp. 76) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 107-8) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 39) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） (pp. 141) [ →buy]
- Yufa! (pp. 37) [ →buy]