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Today I was chatting online with a Chinese person. I wanted to say "I have to go" to end the conversation and disconnect, so I wrote this:


but I don't know if there is a better sentence. Or that sentence is just fine?

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Do you need the (de) in this sentence? I've heard just 我走了 before, and haven't heard it with the . Maybe someone else can help clarify? – Cocowalla Apr 8 '12 at 18:04
@Cocowalla: my Chinese level is not high so I might be making mistakes. – dusan Apr 8 '12 at 23:23
@Cocowalla: Both form sounds OK to me. – fefe Apr 9 '12 at 1:06
@Cocowalla The in this sentence is pronounced (děi). 走了啊! means "Bye bye (in face to face conversation, don't use in forum or over phone)" and 我得走了 means "I should/must leave now". My English is not good enough to translate to native level, just approximate. As @ShouYa's answer, 我得走了 is way better than 我走了 in conversation. – Mengdi Gao Apr 9 '12 at 6:11
@MdGao ah, thanks for clarifying, this makes sense now! I know the spoken word děi is 'to have', but didn't realise it shared the same character as de (得). – Cocowalla Apr 9 '12 at 19:03
up vote 5 down vote accepted

This is just fine, and it's a very native usage. :)

「得」 has the meaning of 'must' when read as 'dei3' in pinyin or 'ㄉㄟ ˇ' in zhuyin.

For expressing this, you could also say:

  • 我不得(note: 'de2', not 'dei3')不走了。
  • 我必須走了。

But '我得走了' is better in speaking and the above two are more used in writing.

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Actually.. both pronunciations of 得 are acceptable. There are plenty of people who would pronounce this sentence as: wǒ bùdé bùzǒu le. This is not uncommon. – deutschZuid Apr 19 '12 at 21:48

From my experience, the use of 得 (dei, sometimes di) to mean "have to" is generally seen in Northern China, and rarely elsewhere. Interestingly, the use of "不得不" (bu de bu) to mean the exact same thing seems more prevalent, according to this thread.

Other combinations that can communicate similar meanings:

我该走了 (I should go)

是时候走了 ([It] is time to go)

我要走了 (I need to go)

(P.S.: Based on my amateurish understanding of the phrase, the use of "不得" to mean "cannot" is an abbreviation for the more ancient phrase "不得已", which translates to "cannot stop"/"does not have an alternative" (已 means "end"). This is possibly the same reason why in Cantonese, "得" (when used alone) means "can".

If this is true, then the word "得" here is indeed the same word that we commonly see it refer to (to have, to obtain), so the pronunciation of "得" as "dei" in Beijing Mandarin is probably a corruption (or a vernacular reading), which might be intended to differentiate it from the words 的 and 地 in this particular context. This explains why "bu de bu" does not have the same corruption.)

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I just read the thread you mentioned. I didn't see any reference to 不得不. Wrong link? – Betty Apr 11 '12 at 3:12

我得走了is fine. Howver, we usually give a reason why you have to go. Such as: 我得走了,我要去参加一个会议. Means I have to go, for I'm going to attend a meeting.

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