Learn basic mandarin Chinese on the fly: Chapter 17 – 的，地，得 , 这，那
The statistic shows that the single most used character in Chinese newspapers or basic mandarin dialogues is “的” (de). This character appears so frequently that you will see it in almost every basic mandarin sentences. It constitutes 4% of the total characters on a newspaper. Actually, the top 42 most frequently used Chinese characters constitute 25% of the newspaper content. And another character, “地” is ranked within the top 20. Therefore, to understand the meanings and functions of these two words will greatly help comprehend basic mandarin Chinese.
There is another character with similar pronunciation and function as “的” and “地”. It is “得”. Although they are meaningless on their own, these three characters are essentials for many phrases, as they are the structure particles that glue sentences together.
The top 42 most frequently used Chinese characters constitute 25% of the characters used in the newspaper.
1.1. A light touch tone pronunciation of “de”
1.1.1. Adj. or phrase + de + noun – It’s always before the noun
◼︎ 我的手机 （My mobile phone）: means possession
◼︎ 美丽的城市 （A pretty city）: adj. + de + noun and adj. It describes the noun.
◼︎ 妈妈做的菜 （a dish cooked by mom）: Subject + Vb. + de + noun. A phrase to modify the noun, and “的” is a structure particle in between
◼︎ Without noun: When someone ask: “who cooked this dish?” ( 谁做的这个菜？) you answer: “妈妈做的”(mom cooked). On this occasion, the noun after the “ 的” is dropped, as everyone knows it means “妈妈做的菜“.
1.1.2. Used at the end of a phrase – as an exclamation word
◼︎ Question: 今天晚上我们去看电影好吗？（How about we go to see a movie this evening?）
◼︎ Answer: 好的！ （Good, OK！）
1.1.3. Structure of 有+的, which means “some”
◼︎ Someone/some people: 有的人去踢球，有的人去爬山 （some people are going to play football, some are going to climb the mountain）
◼︎ Sometimes: 我有的时候自己做饭，有的时候去外面吃。（Sometimes I cook by myself, sometimes I go out to eat.)
1.2. The fourth tone “dì”
When “的” pronounced as the forth tone, it only means “target” or “goal”.
Example: 目的 (goal)
有的放矢 （release the arrow when there is a target
1.3. The second tone “dí”
When “的” pronounced as the second tone, it always an emphasize word to express “indeed”.
的确 (Díquè) indeed correct, or indeed true). Sometimes, you can also say 的的确确 (De díquè què) to express the same meaning of “indeed true”. This is a common basic mandarin phrase structure used to for emphasis.
2. Function and pronunciation of “ 地” in basic mandarin
2.1. A light touch tone “de”
2.1.1. Adv. + 地 + verb
“地” is a structure particle in between of an Adv. and a verb. It is always before the verb.
◼︎ 认真地检查 （inspect carefully）
◼︎ 慢慢地吃饭（eat slowly）
2.2. The fourth tone “dì”
When “地” is pronounced as the forth tone, it is a noun which means the earth, or a place.
a. Land or earth
土地 （land）, 大地 （ground earth）, 地 球 （The Earth）
b. Place or local
◼︎ 这是个好地方（This is a good place）。
◼︎ 地方上的人很善良 （local people are nice）
3. Function and pronunciations of “得” in basic mandarin
3.1. A light touch tone “de”
When “得” pronounced as the light touch tone, it is a structure particle in between a verb. and an adv. It’s always after the verb.
◼︎ 他跑得很快 （He runs very fast）, Normally, “得” is always put before the words 很(very）, 真 (truly) and 太(so).
◼︎ 我觉得不舒服（I don’t feel well）
◼︎ 她显得很累（she looks so tired)
3.2. The second tone “dé”
When “得” pronounced as the second tone, it means receive.
◼︎ 她得到了奖金。（She received the bonus）
◼︎ 获得赞扬的感觉很好。(It feels good of receiving compliments.)
4. 这(here) and 那(there)
Another Chinese character that is also among the top 20 most frequently used characters is 这 (here or this)
4.1.1. When it means “here” or “this place’
◼︎ 这里很安静（here is quiet）
◼︎ 这地方缺水（here/this place is lack of water）
4.1.2. When it means “this”
◼︎ 这本书很有趣 （this book is very interesting）
◼︎ 这个人会跳舞（this person can dance）
◼︎ 这只猫很可爱 （this cat is lovely）
4.2. 那 （there or that)
4.2.1. When it means “there”
◼︎ 他的书在那 (Tā de shū zài nà): His book is here
◼︎ 他在哪？Tā zài nǎ? （where is he?)
Maybe you have noticed that “那” means “there”, and if you put the particle of “口” on the left, it becomes “哪” (the third tone) which means “where”. The later is always used in a question.
4.2.2. When it means “that”
◼︎ 那个人消失了 （That person has disappeared ）
◼︎ 那个地方很冷 （That place is very cold）