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The 3 Big Chinese “De”s: Part 3 - 地 (de)


In our last two posts in this series, we covered the use of 的 (de), which can be used to indicate possession or a description of something, as well as 得 (de), which is used as a verb modifier, a potential complement or to make comparisons.

If you missed those blog posts, you check out the one on 的 (de) here, and the second one covering 得 (de) right here

In this post, we’ll be covering the FINAL “de” that you’ll encounter, and that’s 地 (de). It’s probably the least frequent “de” that’s used, BUT people do use it, so it’s good to know. 

The good news is that we have a suffix in English that has a SUPER similar function to the way 地 (de) is used in Chinese, and there’s only one way to use it!

This super handy infographic breaks down all three “de”s that we covered, and their functions with examples, so save it to your device for reference, or download it as a pdf here!

** If you're just starting to learn Chinese and this is a little too advanced for you, check out our Beginner Conversational Course, starting here with Lesson 1!

“De” Number 3: 地 (de)

This “de” is used to link adjectives with verbs.

To differentiate 地 (de) from the two other “de”s, you can call it the 土也地 (tǔ yě dì). Much like we saw with 的 (de) which is referred to as 白勺的 (bái sháo de), 地 (de) is also referred to by its radicals. 土 (tǔ) + 也 (yě) = 地 (de) - see it?

Please note, the character of this new “de” can also be pronounced as 地 (dì), meaning “ground” when used as a noun. So, to remember it, you can also think of it as the “地地 (dì de)” - the “ground” de.

The One and Only Way to Use “地 (de)”

This 地 (de) is great because there’s only one way it’s used grammatically, and it’s SUPER similar to English. It’s used to turn an adjective into an adverb, to describe a verb, similar to the suffix “-ly” in English.

The structure is: 

adjective + 地 (de) + verb

Let’s see some examples:

  • 她急急忙忙地出去了 (tā jí jí máng máng de chū qu le)。- She went out in a hurry.
  • 他慢慢地走过来了 (tā màn màn de zǒu guo lai le)。- He walked over slowly.
  • 他认真地工作 (tā rèn zhēn de gōng zuò)。- He works hard.
  • 小朋友开心地笑 (xiǎo péng you kāi xīn de xiào)。- The little kid was smiling happily. 
  • 小狗大声地叫 (xiǎo gǒu dà shēng de jiào)。- The puppy barked loudly.

地 (de) vs. 得 (de):

You may be thinking that 地 (de) and 得 (de) bear some resemblance, right? While 地 (de), which describes an action, DOES have some similarity to the 得 (de) that’s used to comment on an action, they’re NOT the same, since they’re fundamental function is different.

Check these two sentences out to see the difference: 

他积极地回答 (tā jī jí de huí dá) - He ACTIVELY answered. 
(Here, we have an adverb for the verb “to answer” - we’re modifying the adjective 积极 (jī jí) with 地 (de).)

他回答得很积极 (tā huí dá de hěn jī jí) - He answered (in an) ACTIVE (way). 
(Here, we have a description of how the verb “to answer” is done - we’re modifying the verb 回答 (huí dá) with 得 (de).)

If you’d like to learn more about the use of 地 (de), we cover it in this lesson


That’s it for the Three “De”s in Chinese blog series! While the three “de”s can seem daunting, they each have their own grammatical role, which will become clearer over time! 

The more you hear these “de”s used, and use them yourself, the more intuitive their functions will feel. Make sure you bookmark all three of the blog posts in this series and then try using these “de”s with your Chinese friends!