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As I understand ...,但是有意思的是,... means ..., but the interesting thing is, ... but I went through great pains to arrive at this. The culprit here that jammed the cranks in my head was the . Had it not been there I might have just inferred that meaning and carry on assuming that the thing in interesting thing was implicit or the phrase was something akin to but what's interesting is.

What's doing here?

I'd also be grateful for another example showing the same rule in action.

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    的 links attributives to NPs (noun phrases), if an NP is omitted it converts the attributive to an NP, w/o 的 like "the interesting is" it would be ungrammatical, 的 can be thought of as abbreviation of "的事情"(interesting thing/matter, or more accurately "what is interesting") – user6065 Jun 3 '16 at 17:27
  • You will see a lot of 的 like this, better get use to it. – imrek Jun 3 '16 at 17:48
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Both your translations are definitely correct (if you think about it but the interesting thing and but what's interesting mean the same thing). As you pointed out, something is omitted here: in this case it's the word 事情 thing, the thing. This happens because it's implicitly inferred.

The sentence 但是有意思的事情是 is grammatically correct too and it means the exactly same thing. In this case we made 事情 explicit.

You already know that 的 introduces the modifier which precedes the noun that it's modifying. If you make 事情 implicit, you have to leave 的 in the sentence to indicate that the element that comes before represents a modifier, and the thing that is modified can be omitted.

Consider this sentence:

我的自行车比你的新。
My bike is newer than yours.

Let's analyse it:

我的自行车 (Modifier + Subject) + 比 (preposition) + 你的 (Modifier) + 新 (Predicate)

In this example, after 你, there is a 的 that modifies something implicit. The word 自行车 is explicit the first time (after 我), but it's omitted the second time (after 你) because both the speaker and the audience know they are talking about bikes. Thus, you omit 自行车 the second time but keep 的 to signify that the element that comes before is a modifier.

P.S. Although it could sound redundant, it is perfectly OK to say 我的自行车比你的自行车新.

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  • Thank you. Nothing like trying to find out more about something that's been made implicit. Having had learnt all that now I searched my Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar book again and the only [thing] ;-) I found was just a brief mention in the Noun Phrases chapter on the omission of the head noun when it's predictable from the context (i.e. the noun has been seen before). However, in my example works as an attributive, so it's a different kind of beast, I guess? Also thanks for the example with , I didn't know about that either despite having seen numerous comparison sentences before. – Johnny Baloney Jun 4 '16 at 0:42
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    @JohnnyBaloney, the job of the character 的 is to separate some elements inside the sentence. By doing so, it immediately tells you that the phrase that precendes 的 it's modifying the noun that comes next. After 的 there has to be a Noun Phrase and if this NP is missing, you have to explain yourself why is that. The only reasonable conclusion is that something is implicit. 99% of the time the missing word is 事情, but not always, for example there is the expression 卖票的, which is the ticket agent. What's missing after 的 in this case is 人. It should be 卖票的人, the person who sells tickets. – Tochtli Jun 4 '16 at 13:41
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As long as I can remember now, 的 has two uses:

  1. As a possessive identifier(or describing a noun with another noun) This one is relatively easy, meaning "of", " 's ". for example:

我的妈妈 => My mother

杰克的食物 => Jack's food

  1. As a modifier, namely, to describe a noun with verbs or adjectives, similar to the relative clause in English, using the relative pronouns (that, which, where, etc.)

Examples:

我帅气的老公 => My handsome husband

从中国来的特产 => A special property which comes from China

One more thing before analyzing your sentence:

In Chinese, the word "thing" is usually omitted if applicable. So if you see sentences like these:

这是我妈的(东西)。=> This is my mum's.

这个是很有意思的(东西)。=> This is very meaningful.

Then you should know that there is a hidden “东西” in between.

So, in your example, knowing that a hidden “东西” is within the sentence, and 的 in th above case having the second meaning, you should understand why the translation is like that.

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  • how did they explain you the structure with 是....的 for past sentence? And How can be sure that in the folowing sentence : "我只学了半年的西班牙语" the 的 is use as relative (我只学了半年的 ) or to describe the noun (半年的)? – Christophe Debove Jul 20 '16 at 17:12
  • @Christophe Debove I am a native Chinese speaker and these explanations are originated based on my experience. But in your sentence 我只学了半年的西班牙语, could actually be translated to "I only learned Spanish of half year", which, despite not being natural, at least makes sense! – 超酷爆帅型头暖男 Jul 21 '16 at 2:14
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“的”的用法是:①部分n+的=adj adj修饰n/v ②省略一些词语 such as:美丽的蝴蝶 美丽=n 美丽的=adj 蝴蝶=n 美丽的修饰(modifier)蝴蝶 ——莫道不销魂,帘卷西风,人比黄花瘦。

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