I came across the phrase '住在上海旁边的一个小村子里’... I cannot understand the use of 的 in this phrase.

Any help is greatly appreciated :) If you have the time to fully break down the sentence that would also be helpful :D

  • Short answer: you probably know 的 as a sort of 'possessive' marker, but it is just an attribute marker here. 上海旁边的X is "a/the X near/beside Shanghai", so the phrase before 的 describes the noun that comes after it.
    – imrek
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 19:07

2 Answers 2


"住(live)在(in)上海(Shanghai)旁边(beside)的(indicates attributive)一个(a)小(small)村子(village)里(used together with 在 to mean in)" can be translated as 'live in a small villiage beside Shanghai.'

的 is used between an attribute and the head noun it modifies. That is, an attribute must be followed immediately by a 的 in order to modify a noun.

The question lies in the different word orders between English and Chinese. In English, the word indicating the location of A is usually placed after A, together with a preposition such as in/at/beside and so on. While in Chinese, the word indicating the location of A is usually placed in the attributive position (before A), followed immediately by a 的. So "a church in Washington" is translated as "在(in) 华盛顿(Washington) 的 一所(a) 教堂(church)" or just "华盛顿的一所教堂", "a church beside Washington" is translated as "华盛顿(Washington) 旁边(beside) 的 一所(a) 教堂(church)"

As for "住在上海旁边的一个小村子里", 住 means live, "在...里" means in, "上海(Shanghai) 旁边(beside) 的 一个(a) 小(small) 村子(village)" means "a small village beside Shanghai".

上海旁边(beside Shanghai) as a whole is used as attribute to modify 一个小村子.


的 is used as an adjectival suffix here


1.住(verb) "live"

2.在(preposition) "in "

3.小村子 (noun) "small village"

= 住在小村子 (live in small village)

的 is an adjectival suffix that make 上海旁邊 a relative phrase of the noun 小村子 (small village)

** In English, we place the relative pronoun " that/ which/ who" after the noun to indicate the following is a relative phrase of it.

Example: " the village [that] is beside Shanghai."

** In Chinese, we place the adjectival suffix 的, after the relative phrase to indicate that phrase is a descriptive phrase of the following noun.

Example: [ relative phrase - (beside Shanghai) ]+ [adjectival suffix - (的) ]+[ noun- (small village)]

  • the relative phrase is not limited to location, it can be any description, for example: " the small village that has no phone" - " has no phone" would be the relative clause of "the small village"
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 18:42

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