I was doing a sentence rearranging exercise and came across this:


Could someone explain the structure of this sentence? I feel like it would be more properly written as:


I was confused thinking that 英语 is the object of 讲 and so then would go after the verb. Could I say "他讲英语。"? Maybe "他讲英语讲得很好。"? And the explanation is that the first 讲 is just left out?

Why can't it be "他讲得很好英语。"? Is it just weird to have the adverbial phrase before the language being spoken?

  • 2
    他英语讲得很好 with fronted object (英语) and complement of degree (程度补语)得很好 fronting object has the advantage that the verb need not be repeated, if object follows verb , then verb 讲 must be repeated as in 他讲英语讲得很好
    – user6065
    Feb 23, 2017 at 1:16
  • Aha! Ok, I think that makes sense. So then I could say "我饭做很快了。" for I quickly cooked a meal? Is "我做饭了做很快。" grammatically correct also? I assume there are probably instances where putting the object in front of the verb is ok and other instances when it is not ok. Is there a Chinese term for this "fronted object"? 谢谢您!
    – jdods
    Feb 23, 2017 at 3:06
  • 2
    fronted object 前置宾语(外国人实用汉语语法)从结构上看,谓语前边或后边常带状语或补语 structually,the predicate is usually preceded by an adverbial adjunct or followed by a complement 例如:我这些文章能看懂。我上海去过,南京也去过。他们那个展览会已经参观了。他英语,汉语说得很好。Alternative suggestions: 我饭做得很快(了)。我做饭了做得很快。
    – user6065
    Feb 23, 2017 at 5:39
  • Thank you very much! I did indeed leave out the "得" accidentally.
    – jdods
    Feb 23, 2017 at 11:46

2 Answers 2


Maybe "他讲英语讲得很好。"? And the explanation is that the first 讲 is just left out?

Exactly this.

The grammatical rule here is pretty simple, but sometimes overlooked:
with complements of grade (得 + verbal phrase) the main verb is doubled, in order to keep the strong bound between verb + object and between verb + grade particle, so your example would be actually written:


Then, the first occurrence of the main verb (the one before the object) can be omitted, so you end up with:

他 (subject)
讲 (main verb)
英语 (object)
讲 (verb doubled)
得 (grade particle)
很好 (verbal phrase)


Let's use x-bar theory to examine the grammar of this sentence:

S---他英语讲得很好 | |--Noun Phrase---他 |--Verb Phrase---英语讲 |--Noun---英语 |--Verb---讲 |--Prepositional Phrase---得很好 |--Preposition---得 |--Complement---很好 |--Adverb---很 |--Adjective---好

Notice that this sentence has a SOV structure and there is a prepositional phrase that explain the relationship between the verb and object. In most cases mandarin follows a SVO structure so here it's an inversion. This inversion is quite common.

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