I was reading a text from The Chairman's Bao titled "Australian Boy Finds 56-year-old Message in a Bottle" and I came across the following sentence:


What does 的 do here? Could it be omitted? How's this construction called and where I could read more about it?


3 Answers 3


Possession, just as always, with flexible senses - here, in an abstract sense by the time known as "now".

"The Paul, who is in the possession (的) of now (现在) - Now's Paul - already (已经) has realized (了) the age of 63 years (岁)."

Or in a more succinct form, still preserving the cognition,

The Paul of now already attained 63 years of age.

Or, in a more colloquial, conventional form,

As of now, Paul is already 63.

By the "already" (已经), it sounds like there was some expectation elsewhere in the text that he was not so old by now.

ADD, see comments: This whole unit 现在的, in this instance, can also be understood as an adjective phrase - in that sense, it signifies that "nowness" is a quality held by Paul (effectively, the inverse of the interpretation described above), so the "Paul of the present time", or the "Paul with existing-in-the-present-time-ness". X的 in general is an adjective meaning "Xness-possessing". This is actually the most common interpretation, it's just that here, with this specific term, we have an alternative one that also makes sense as well, but in other cases one or the other will be clearly more sensible.

  • Today is not the subject that possess Paul. The adjectival marker 的 turns "today" into an adjective phrase "today's / of today"
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 19, 2019 at 1:31
  • @Tang Ho : Yes, that works - as an adjective refers to a quality possessed by something, instead of the quality as the thing doing the possessing. E.g. 很高的人 "very tall peeps" - the peeps are very-tallness possessors. But in the specific case of 现在, it seems to make sense with either interpretation because you can view it as either Paul "is possessed of the quality of existing in the present time", or "the present time possesses Paul", i.e. contains him within it. Both interpretations work. Also, my dictionary calls 现在 a noun, but maybe it's wrong - it's been so before, it's kinda flakey. Aug 19, 2019 at 1:45
  • If it's agreed that 现在 is an adjective, not a noun, then you'd be right. Aug 19, 2019 at 1:46
  • 现在 is a noun, 现在的 is an adjective phrase. 的 can turn any phrases into adjective phrase. Same as 過去 is a noun 過去的 is an adjective as in 不提過去的事 (not mention past matter/ not mention matter of the past) 事 is the noun and 過去的 is the adjective phrase for it. It describes the "matter" is "of the past" not "of the present" or "of the future"
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 19, 2019 at 1:51
  • @Tang Ho: Yes, now I remember that. Aug 19, 2019 at 1:58

I remember when I first saw things like 小小的我, 年轻的他 it seemed strange. In English you can say:

poor little me

but normally, in English, we need a relative clause to describe Paul 'Paul, who ... '.

Paul put the message in a bottle as a boy. Now he is 63.

Paul, who is now 63, remembers that day well.


的 can be either a possessive maker or an adjectival marker

Example of 的 as a possessive maker: "保罗的車" = "Paul's car" (的 marks the noun car as the object that's possessed by Paul)

Example of 的 as an adjectival marker: "年老的保罗" = "old aged Paul" (的 marks 年老 as an adjective for Paul)

Q: "Paul? Which Paul?"

A: "The old aged Paul"

The 的 in 现在的Paul已经63岁了 is not a possessive maker but an adjectival marker.

Q: "Paul? Which Paul?"

A: "The Paul today" (not the Paul in the past/ not the eight years old Paul)

"现在的 Paul 已经63岁了" is a [topic + comment] sentence

  • "现在的 Paul" (the Paul now) is the topic

  • "已经63岁了" (is already 63 years old) is the comment

If you remove 的 and write: "现在 Paul 已经63岁了" Then it would be translated as "Paul is now 63 years old"

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