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I am a total noob when it comes to Chinese, so sorry if this is a dumb question. Recently I started using an Anki deck called SpoonFedChinese to study Chinese. Today I came across the following sentence (the translation is the one given in the deck):

有什么事是我该做的吗

Is there anything I should do?

Now, I know 有什么事 means "is there anything", 我该做 means "I should do", and 吗 is the question marker, but I'm still not sure what purpose 是...的 serves in this sentence. Could you have the sentence without this structure? If yes, then how does it change the meaning?

Thank you in advance.

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That's simply a weird sentence.

In fact your simplified sentence 有什么事我该做吗 (是and的 removed) is much more concise and fits better the desired way of speaking Chinese. The only problem is that conventionally attributive clause should precede the noun in Chinese.

So 有什么我该做的事吗 is more native (的here is just a connection word between clause and noun). Furthermore 事 (thing) doesn't mean any meaningful thing here, you can essentially just omit it and say 有什么我该做的吗?.

Maybe you have seen, the complication of 是 and 的 arises because you want to keep the same word order as in English (attributive clause after the noun).

In fact, an even more native way is to try to never use clause in Chinese.

我该做些什么

it looks similar to "What should I do?" but adding 些 implies "something" and makes it mean the exact same thing as "is there anything I should do?".

  • Great feedback from a native speaker! – Apollys Jul 31 '18 at 22:44
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的 is used there as you're describing a noun. for example:

我该做的事 the thing that I should do

你吃的早饭 the breakfast that you eat

她听的课 the course that she takes

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I think to translate the sentence literally, the English version would be:

Is there anything that is I should do?

But this is redundant in English(I don't know whether it's wrong in grammar). So the English version seems missing the "是" character.

  • Hmm, I see. How about 的, what does it mean here? – RadonBust Jul 30 '18 at 16:47

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