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So the age old question of 的-地-得, when do you use which? When spoken, it all sounds the same, but on paper it depends on if it's a verb, noun, adjective. But I don't quite remember if that is all that matters or which applies to which.

Can someone refresh my memory?

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learn a bit of classical and you'll never get them confused, if only because constructions involving the same 得 are ubiquitous – magnetar Dec 25 '11 at 20:10
A grammar book I read recently suggests that it's not so important which is which and that you can use 的 in all the cases (maybe not in an important exam but in everyday use). That was confirmed by a Chinese friend who told me to use 的 where it should have been 得. To be confirmed though, but check out recent grammar books. – this.lau_ Mar 19 '12 at 13:52
Forget it, even a native speaker get confused sometimes. – user1060 Sep 11 '12 at 16:32
I don't agree with @Laurent's grammar book. The difference among 的-地-得 is not difficult to learn. Writing in good grammar will make a good impression. – Stan Jul 29 '13 at 8:00
As another point of disagreement with @Laurent, it should be noted that the three are only homonyms in Mandarin. In other Chinese varieties, they are pronounced differently and replacing one with the other would sound obviously wrong when read out loud. For instance, in Cantonese, 的-地-得 are dik1-dei2-dak1. – Claw Aug 13 '13 at 8:12

10 Answers 10

The usage of “的” is in possessive or adjectival context. E.g., (posessive) “我的狗”, or (adjectival) “真正的生意人”. Generally a noun is modified, so a noun follows it, unless it doesn't, such as “有点儿不足是难免的”, (some insufficiency is unavoidable) which is still an adjectival modifier (unavoidable), even though it modifies the noun (insufficiency) in front of it.

“地” is used usually as an adverbial modifier, following the modifier and preceding the verb. For example, in “她伤心地说” (she said sadly).

The last one, “得”, is distinct, because it's a potential complement, not a modifier. It follows a verb to show the result. So the structure is VERB + 得 + RESULT. One of the things I found confusing about this, coming from English, is that it leads to some structures that have bit of repetition. So to say "she speaks Chinese very well", you use something like "she speaks Chinese, speaks very well", i.e., “她说中文说得很好”.

Since both “得” and “地” come between a verb and something else, they can be easy to confuse. But just remember that if "de" functions as an adverb, the verb comes after it and “地” is appropriate, but if you are trying to complement or completes the verb that precedes it, then use “得”, even in weird cases like “好得很”!

For short, just remember: “地” usually appears before the verb while “得” appears after the verb. eg. “这件事漂亮地完成了。” and “这件事完成得漂亮。” these two sentences are correct in grammar, although they have slight differences in emotion.

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I still don't fully understand the difference between 地 and 得. What is for instance the difference between 他很好地说汉语 and 他说汉语说得很好 ? In my view both are just adverbial usages ? – Paul Praet Jul 9 '12 at 20:22
@PaulPraet “这件事完成得漂亮。” There isn't 了. – Mike Manilone Oct 6 '12 at 10:07
We won't say something like 他很好地说汉语 but 他说汉语说得很好. 得 also have the meaning of "have to" – Pete C. Sep 20 '14 at 13:18

Here's a trick my Chinese teacher told me (and it rhymes!):


Use 地 (土字旁) before verbs, 的 (白字旁) after nouns, and 得 (双人旁) between a verb and an adverb.



You can practice here.

Advanced 的得地 speakers are very welcome to take this challenge.

Hope this helps!

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THIS IS AWESOME! I am going to teach it to my wife later tonight! – Avery Chan Apr 16 '13 at 3:43
Yeah, this is a perfect awesome answer. Thanks for the sharing. – mjb Aug 10 '14 at 1:52

的 is always followed by a noun, 地 appears after adverbs, and 得 is used after verbs.

  • 你的苹果 your apple
  • 快乐地唱 sing delightfully
  • 跑得很快 run very fast
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An interesting phenomenon, many 地 are replaced by 的 in China, TV, book, newspaper, everywhere – congliu Aug 19 '13 at 18:16

It's easy to distinguish them.

  • Before a noun, like 家, we use 的, 我的家.
  • Before a verb, like 学习, we use 地, 好好地学习.
  • Before a adj or adv, like 快, we use 得, 跑得快.
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In fact, I dont think you need to distinguish 的 地 or 得 from others, because even as native speakers, we spend much time learning them. Also, we (even many tv programs)often use 的 instead of 地 and 得 since its convenient although its considered as a bad, even wrong way.

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this is reassuring :-) – Stephane Rolland Sep 13 '12 at 10:46
I would not upvote this answer, because this is a basic ability even taught in a primary school! Some people can't choose the right one to use just because they didn't study hard even in primary school. Or they didn't pay attention to the result of a Pinyin input method, but most of them would check in hand-writing documents. 的-地-得, completely different. – Mike Manilone Oct 6 '12 at 9:59

I have to tell you that not all Chinese can tell them apart now, although we've learnt it in primary school.

You should be really good at Chinese if you can easily tell the difference.

的 => adj. + n.

地 => adv. + v.

得 => v. + adv.


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You can remember some examples, compare with them when you use. For example, 我的书,好得很,认真地读, or 我在认真地读我的那本好得很的书.

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Put it in simple way:

-的 is used as possessive suffix or adjective suffix, i.e 我的 (I + 的 = my) or 美的 (beuaty + 的 = beautiful)

-地 is a adverb suffix, it works as -ly in English, i.e. 快地(quickness + 地 = quickly)

-得 is a particle word after a verb to soften the action (Verb), so it doesn't mean anything.

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的 and 地 are easy to learn. 的 is used for adj. 地 is used for adv. 得 is not clean to be translated well.

But one good thing is even Chinese young people cannot do this separation well. The new Chinese culture book for primary school in China mainland is use 的 only. This question will be meanless within 2 decades.

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protected by Alenanno Sep 13 '12 at 9:07

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