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Why do I need 的 for 爸爸 but not for 爸 ?

me: So if I said "your father is....", it would be 你的爸是....
me: Right?
friend: No 的 if you use 爸
friend: we say 你爸是。。。
friend: Or 你的爸爸是。。。。

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3 Answers 3

的 is "of" in this case

你爸是。。。- Your father is...
你的爸爸是。。。。 - father of yours is....

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Okay, I knew that part, but why do I use the particle for one and not the other? –  Aerovistae Aug 1 at 20:56
    
@Aerovistae It's very common in China to use 你爸是 instead of 你爸爸是 or 你的爸爸是. 爸 is more like "Dad". In the same manner you won't say "Dad of John is a police". That might not be 'wrong' but usually nobody do it this way –  Alex Aug 1 at 21:00
    
So why did my friend tell me what I wrote is wrong? Is it just not idiomatic? –  Aerovistae Aug 1 at 21:05
    
@Aerovistae Idiomatic, but only in recent years I guess. Back to my age 你爸爸是 or 你的爸爸是 is perfectly valid. –  Alex Aug 1 at 21:07

Just want to correct a misconception here. You do not need 的 for 爸爸. It is actually quite common to just use 你爸爸 or 我爸爸. This can be seen in the title of published books, for instance.

The main reason why you can't use for the single character is just because of the way the sentence would sound. That probably stems from how the Chinese language did not historically use it the possessive particle. Moreover, remember that that many words were once single characters, and later morphed into two character under modern Chinese. In such cases, using a word's single character variant can therefore be reminiscent of classical Chinese. That makes inserting a 的 particle sound rather awkward. In contrast, consider the perfectly acceptable 我的家 or 我的碗, which have not been replaced by two character variants in mainstream usage.

You should probably just consider such things to be irregular/exceptions.

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First of all, we only discuss 的 as of that connects two noun or noun phrases here.

Second of all, you can say 你的爸爸, but in colloquial use, 的 is often omitted. It's like a contraction.

Third of all, you can see it as collocation, so there isn't much logic in this.

But to make it easier to language learners, you can remember it like this.

  1. Both side of 的 are people.

  2. The left side can be pronoun like 你、我、他, or the person's name like 小明.

  3. The right side is the relative name of another person in relation to the one on the left for example 爸爸(dad), 妈妈(mom), 儿子(son), 老板(boss), 助手(assistant).

In such situation it should be safe to omit 的. And in this sense, 的 means of. And in any other situation, don't omit 的 when it connects two nouns although some time it may be acceptable.

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