Being a beginner, I am bit puzzled by the concept of "shì" being used not for describing nouns with adjectives.

Using search, I think it is clear to me that:

  1. Noun + noun = I can use "shì".
  2. Adjective + noun = I should use "hen".

Well but what I am unable to figure out is the combination, like "This is my new phone". I am connecting two nouns, but also connecting an adjective and a noun. What rule is the applied?

  • Q&A for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language.
    – user6065
    Nov 14, 2016 at 16:42
  • "This is my new phone", according to usual English grammar, uses "is" to connect a pronoun to a noun phrase. The adjectives "my" and "new" are not being used as predicative adjectives, unlike "red" in "This is red".
    – Michaelyus
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:07
  • @Pietrossil I don't think you are tactic as to how a language should be learned. It seemed that you don't know what are subjects, objects, possessive particle, modifiers, etc.
    – user13501
    Nov 15, 2016 at 5:54
  • chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/21853/…,Please see this.
    – xqMogvKW
    Nov 16, 2016 at 2:39

4 Answers 4


Seems the answer did not help much, here is mine - it is about predicative and attributive.

My phone is new. The adjective describes the subject, this is the predicative.
My new phone. The adjective is attributive, it is linked to the noun.

If it is predicative, do not use "to be" (shì).

SIDE NOTE: I am a beginner myself and I often see the example "Sky is blue" translated as "Tiānkōng shì lánsè de (天空是蓝色的)". I have no idea why it can be like this as it clearly is predicative.

  • Did you mean " If it is attributive, do not use 'to be' (shì)." ? Also, what is so hard to understand about the structure of "天空(the sky)是(is)蓝色的(blue)"[predicative] / 蓝色的(blue)天空( sky) [predicative] / 蓝天 (blue sky) [attributive]?
    – Tang Ho
    Nov 15, 2016 at 11:28
  • @TangHo No, shì is not used for predicative adjectives. You are missing the point, you yourself say "Sky IS blue" (noun + adjective) and there is "shì". Why? It is the same as "He IS tall" and there wil not be "shì". For beginners, the basic rule is never to use "shì" to link nouns and adjectives.
    – John V
    Nov 15, 2016 at 12:49
  • in 天是蓝的, 天 is the [topic], 是蓝的 is [comment/opinion]. [topic]+[comment] structure is a common Chinese sentence structure
    – Tang Ho
    Nov 15, 2016 at 13:36
  • @TryingMyself 天空是蓝色的 sounds like it doesn't make sense if you translate it as "The sky is blue"; the literal translation would be more like "The sky is a blue one". By adding 的 after 蓝色, you create an implied noun; in this context, 蓝色的 really means 蓝色的(天空), but you omit the 天空 because it's already obvious what the meaning is based off of context, acting almost like a pronoun. Thus, you use 是 because you're connecting two noun phrases, 天空 and (蓝色的)天空. If you were to phrase this sentence using 很, it would be written as 天空很蓝 because we're connecting 天空, a noun, with 蓝, an adjective. Nov 19, 2016 at 20:28

Do you use your odd rules for English? If not, why invent one for Mandarin? "my new phone" is an accusative. Even "This" is also accusative.

This(这) is(是) my(我的) new phone(新手机/新电话).

shì is mandarin generic connector equivalent to "am/are/is/did/do/does", but English sometime will omit them.


"Excuses me, [are] you Mr. John?" -> "请问, 你[是]约翰先生吗?"
"Yes, [I am]" ->  "[是的]" 

You [are] digging your own grave. 

[Did he] just wake up?

[is he] the person that you speak about?

hen 很 - means very , plentiful, a lot

  • 1
    Do you perhaps mean "noun phrase" instead of "accusative"?
    – Michaelyus
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:05
  • @Michaelyus Noun phrase? I wonder how you distinguish This is my new phone versus This is a new phone?
    – mootmoot
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:13
  • All of "this", "my new phone", and "a new phone" can be considered to be noun phrases, also known as "nominal phrases". In Chinese these are called 名詞句.
    – Michaelyus
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:24
  • @Michaelyus : Welcome to the confusion of "linguistic" attempt to force English grammar "noun phrase" into Mandarin, it is AFU . IMO "accusative" (which no longer define in English linguistic usage) is more appropriate and natural definition.
    – mootmoot
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:58
  • Someone suggested you use 找死(自掘坟墓)instead of 作死 (ridiculous;reckless). You could consider it.
    – Tang Ho
    Nov 14, 2016 at 23:34

I think I have your answer. Shì 是 means 'is' but we tend not to use it with adjectives. That's why you're confused.

I am a teacher - wo shi laoshi

I am fat - wo hen pang

You were right in using 'hen' by the way.

You can use 'shi' but will need to add 'de' at the end

Wo shi pang de - I am fat (emphatic, like you are stressing the fact that you are after an argument)

Colours are treated like nouns, so that's the other thing that confused you.

We use the shi...de construction with them:

Wode mao shi heise de - my cat is black

Does that make sense?



I think you made a little mistake. It should be:

noun IS noun (period) = noun 是 noun。
noun IS adjective (period) = noun 很 adjective。

When you have: "This is my new phone", basicaly you have "this is my phone" which is a noun (or pronoun actually) IS noun (phone). So it should be 是.

Nota that "new phone" is not a "new + end of the sentence" structure. It's attached to "phone", which is a noun and ends the sentence. That's why it should be 是 and not 很.

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