In the following conversation:

A: 小湖,这几天你怎么没来下棋呀?

B: 为了搬家我忙得焦头烂额。哪儿有时间下棋呀?

A: 你可以委托搬家公司呀?

B: 搬家公司只管大件,小东西还我亲自动手。

I'm sure the 得 here means "have to ~" or "must" (so it is dei, not de). However, the subject is likely 我, not 小东西.

So why is place of 得 not after 我 in this sentence? Is it OK and if that is the case, how can I know in what case should I put 得 before the subject?

  • Just think about Modal verb.
    – mootmoot
    Feb 2 '18 at 15:57

Is it OK and if that is the case, how can I know in what case should I put 得 before the subject?

This is OK. You can change the order of words for the purpose of emphasis; note that the object being emphasized changes according to the position of 得. e.g.


小东西我还得亲自动手(搬)。 => for emphasizing the object, i.e. 小东西

小东西还得我亲自动手(搬)。 => not only emphasizes the object but also the subject, i.e. 我

BTW 得 is not the verb; as you said it means "need", "have to" or "must", the verb is 搬 which is omitted. This is a kind of 宾语前置 (object fronting), i.e. change from S-V-O structure to O-S-V structure.

  • Thanks but even in these cases I usually see the sentence keeps S + V + O structure, IIRC. So I wonder why this sentence puts V before S...
    – Blaszard
    Feb 2 '18 at 14:46
  • @Blaszard Answer revised.
    – user4072
    Feb 2 '18 at 14:55
  • Thanks and that makes sense! Are these types of inversion common in Chinese as well?
    – Blaszard
    Feb 4 '18 at 13:40
  • @Blaszard Yes, that's why there's a special term "宾语前置" for it. For this case "得" has involvement then makes it a little complex.
    – user4072
    Feb 4 '18 at 13:55



These two sentences mean the same. If you don't understand the grammar of the first one, you can think about this sentence:

小东西(他们)还得 我亲自动手。

Where 我 is the indirect object of 让 and virtual subject 他们 could be 搬家公司. So, the whole translation can be "For those things small, (they) have to let me to handle".

  • This seems to be quite different answer from the one by @songyuanyao♦...
    – Blaszard
    Feb 3 '18 at 13:12
  • @Blaszard, just another way to explain it. The goal is to help you to understand. Sometimes, a Chinese sentence can be understood in a few different ways from the grammar standpoint, but the meaning will remain the same. The way I show you for this sentence is based on the way you usually comprehend. Songyuanyao's answer is correct too, but it seems that you were quite struggling with that.
    – dan
    Feb 4 '18 at 0:58

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