I'm not too sure what this 得 is doing here. If I rewrite as in 2. or 3. is that a) correct and b) still the same meaning?

  1. 德里克.帕腓特有一个极端得空前绝后的假设,。。。。。
  2. 德里克.帕腓特有一个极端的,空前绝后的假设,。。。。。
  3. 德里克.帕腓特有一个极端地空前绝后的假设,。。。。。

Basically, I'm not sure what 空前绝后 is describing. Either 极端 or 假设, or both?

I would translate the phrase as: Derek Parfit presents the extreme(极端) and unprecedented(空前绝后) hypothesis that,

It is not good English to write 'extremely unprecedented'. Either something is unprecedented, or it is not.

  • 空前绝后 is describing 假设.
    – Whhhhhhhhy
    Feb 26, 2017 at 1:52
  • "极端地空前绝后" = extremely unprecedented .... and it does not make any sense. do we have "溫和地空前絕後"?
    – Henry HO
    Mar 2, 2017 at 2:35

4 Answers 4


For 极端得空前绝后的假设, 空前绝后 is describing 极端, to express the degree of 极端. And 极端 is describing 假设. So 极端得空前绝后的假设 could be parsed as 极端(得空前绝后)的假设, means (unprecedentedly) extreme hypothesis.

And when describing the degree of verb/adj, should be used.

Note that in the 2nd sentence, if you change to , the syntax is valid but the meaning changes; it becomes 极端的,空前绝后的假设, both 极端 and 空前绝后 describe 假设, means extreme and unprecedented hypothesis.

For the 3rd sentence, I'll say that using is wrong syntax here.

Here're some references about the differences among , , :

  • Aha, I was seeing 'extremely unprecedented' which is not good. 'unprecedentedly extreme' is good. Thanks!
    – Pedroski
    Feb 26, 2017 at 8:30

The answer provided by @songyuanyao seems to be correct for me.

I'll show you how to Let's use x-bar theory to decompose the sentence.

Sentence = 德里克.帕腓特有一个极端得空前绝后的假设 Sentence = Noun Phrase(德里克.帕腓特) + Verb Phrase(有一个极端得空前绝后的假设)

  • Noun Phrase(德里克.帕腓特) = Noun(德里克.帕腓特)

  • Verb Phrase(有一个极端得空前绝后的假设) = Verb(有) + Noun Phrase(一个极端得空前绝后的假设)

    • Noun Phrase(一个极端得空前绝后的假设) = Determiner(一个) + Adjective Phrase (极端得空前绝后的) + Noun(假设)

      • Adjective Phrase(极端得空前绝后的) = Adjective(极端) + Complement Phrase(得空前绝后) + Adjective Preposition(的)
        • Complement Phrase(得空前绝后)= Complement Preposition(得) + Complement(空前绝后)

In serious writing, you should never misuse 的,地 and 得.

的 is used between an adjective phrase and a noun phrase which the adjective phrase is describing.

地 is used between an adverbial phrase and a verb phrase which the adverbial phrase is describing.

得 is used between a noun phrase or a verb phrase and the complement which is describing the previous phrase.

  • Thanks, but, x-bar theory went out of fashion years ago, why do you think it says anything at all about how language works? How are you defining the concepts you use? If a phrase contains a verb and a noun, is it a verb phrase or a noun phrase? If a complement contains an adjective like 空, why isn't it an adjective phrase? If it is an adjective phrase, why call it a complement?
    – Pedroski
    Feb 26, 2017 at 8:45
  • x-bar theory was never outdated but revised by chomsky and other researchers. I use x-bar theory because it nicely shows the structure of a sentence and uses very similar terminology as in traditional syntax.
    – Lucius Hu
    Feb 28, 2017 at 6:51
  • x-bar theory works as it explains things in the way I prefer. As I mentioned in the answer, I was using this framework to decompose the sentence. The advocates of x-bar theory have other theoretical implications, but that's not related to me and my answer here.
    – Lucius Hu
    Feb 28, 2017 at 6:53
  • In a sentence with either SVO structure or SOV structure. S is the noun phrase and VO/OV is the verb phrase.
    – Lucius Hu
    Feb 28, 2017 at 6:56
  • 空前绝后 is an idiom and it's an smallest unit in the sentence. It's part of speech is a noun and with 的 or 地 it becomes adjective/adverb. But 空 here is a verb. 空前绝后=使前空,使后绝, which is 使动 in classical Chinese.
    – Lucius Hu
    Feb 28, 2017 at 6:59

No.3 德里克.帕腓特有一个极端地空前绝后的假设…… also doesn't work well in Chinese. Although it can be reasonably analyzed, but it is not a usual way to say. The reason is like the one you gave for English.

No.1 德里克.帕腓特有一个极端得空前绝后的假设…… can even have two ways to understand:

  1. 空前绝后 is describing 极端

  2. Both describing 假设. This may sound strange but it is more obvious with another example:恐怖得可以吓死人的某物(Something terrifying enough to scare people to die). Both 恐怖 and 可以吓死人 are describing the noun.

So, with the context, it could mean 'unprecedentedly extreme hypothesis' or 'hypothesis which is extreme enough to call it unprecedented'


(1) 极端得空前绝后的 = unprecedentedly extreme

(2) 极端的,空前绝后的 = extreme and unprecedented

It depends which you want to express. (They seem similar to me.)

I'd say (3) is unacceptable. 极端地 is an adverb that modifies a verb, but there is no verb.

What I said corresponds with my memory of high-school textbook. Keep in mind that Chinese usage is far from uniform, and don't be surprised if you find something different from your books. Purist will hold that (3) is wrong, but many laypeople might be okay with that.

  • "极端地空前绝后" = extremely unprecedented .... and it does not make sense. do we have "溫和地空前絕後"?
    – Henry HO
    Mar 2, 2017 at 2:35
  • @HenryHo I do agree 极端地空前绝后 does not make sense. So....? Mar 2, 2017 at 3:48
  • "極端地空前絕後" is grammatically correct, but it is redundant because "空前絕後" itself carries the meaning of "極端".
    – Henry HO
    Mar 2, 2017 at 11:01

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