Are the literal translations of the two phrases the same?

If they have the same meaning, why would people use '的' in a phrase like this? Would it make a phrase more polite or beautiful?

  • 1
    look up grammar on when 的 between adjectives used attributively and nouns is obligatory, optional or must not be used (search site for previous discussion), 翱翔 also is a verb and accordingly 自由 could function as adverb, in which case the question is whether or not to use 地
    – user6065
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:13
  • This incorrect usage of is common probably because of pinyin input methods. Many just type de and choose whatever's in the first place(which is usually ).
    – Cnly
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:27
  • "外国人实用汉语语法",定语和结构助词"的"3。下列情况用不用"的"都可以:。。。形容词:双音词修饰双音词,举例:丰富(的)生活,痛苦(的)回忆。web search of 自由的翱翔 and 自由翱翔 (jukuu currently unavailable) shows that 自由翱翔 may have become standard by long time use, however there also is 自由的翱翔吧!!!動漫(动漫) comics
    – user6065
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 19:25
  • Using "的" in such case is a poor command of Mandarin. It is grammatically correct but illogical if without previous context to support it.
    – mootmoot
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 8:09
  • "自由的翱翔" can only be interpreted as "flying" (a noun). but '自由翱翔' is confusable, without context it can be 'flys' (a verb) or 'flying ' (a noun). Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 2:12

4 Answers 4


If translated literally, your two phrases would be fly freely and freedom's flying. In this case (the way I'm interpreting it), the 的 functions as a bit of a possessive. If you meant 地, which in this case would turn the 自由 into an adverb (freely instead of free or freedom), then there isn't much of a difference in meaning. However, the four letter phrase is a common trend in Chinese and is often associated with more poetic and metaphorical statements, so would be more beautiful, yes.

(If you are confused about the finer details of the 的、得、地 grammatical construct, in general 得 is used between adverb and verb when the verb is first, and 地 in the reverse situation, while 的 is usually between adjective and noun.)


both are ok. in real practice, I will read them slightly different. I may put a very short pause in the middle of 自由-翱翔, whereas I will read it directly through for 自由的翱翔. but that really doesn't matter in terms of its meaning and other effects (beautiful or polite). what will make it more attractive is the way you read it.


They are literally same.

The difference is subtle, 的 splits the adjective and noun, make the adjective/ noun stand out from the whole phrase.

Anytime you want to add more weight to the adjective/ noun , add 的. If you want to be more concise or rhythmically with other phrase , omit 的.

For example:

我在仰望, 自由翱翔

Omit 的 is better, since the first phrase is 4 characters.

我在仰望, 月亮之上

有多少梦想, 在自由的翱翔

Here with 的, you can emphasis 自由 or 翱翔. And If you want to omit 的, you can, it's a personal choice.


This answer explains in an East Asian way

It is a common usage in East Asia, "topic indicator", you can call it. Although it can vary a lot structurally, (the specific usages may confuse you, ) the purpose are actually quite similar, to make the structure clearer and so that you can stress some part of your sentence. And to some extent, Because tones are used for distinguish meanings, a few "indicator" word are special replacement for these "**tone-based **" structure.

Anyways, (if you prefer a short version), the difference here(with or without 的) are usually expressed in different tones in English.

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