3

If you hear, "tā gāoxìng de tiào qǐlái," there are two interpretations:

  • 他高兴跳起来。 He jumped up happily.
  • 他高兴跳起来。 He was so happy that he jumped up.

Or another example: tā shūfu de shuìjiào.

  • 他舒服得睡觉。 He is comfortable enough to sleep.
  • 他舒服地睡觉。 He slept comfortably.

Are these actually ambiguous when spoken, or are there other rules or clues that help determine the meaning?

Do native speakers use 得/地 carefully in situations like this when writing?

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You won't hear any difference in spoken because both are pronounced the same de.

In writing, 他高兴得跳起来 is correct. 他舒服地睡觉 and 他舒服得睡觉 are not idiomatic because they are not a typical Chinese way but English. We'd say 他睡得很舒服 in this case.

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In many spoken cases you will be able to hear the difference between 得/地, because 得 is often realised as dé and 地 as dè.

Native speakers do make a conscious effort to use them in different situations in writing.

地 is used to link a verb and an adverb, as in

同学们迅速地跑回课室,准备上课。

Or “the students ran back to the classroom quickly to prepare for lessons.”

得 is used to link verbs and adjectives, as in

科学理论虽然难懂,但老师依然解释得很清楚。

Or “Although scientific concepts are difficult to understand, the teacher explained it (in a) clear (fashion).”

  • actually, the correct pronunciation for both 得 and 地 as indicated in official dictionaries is "de" the neutral tone. Though some may pronounce it as de2(得),it's a wrong way. – dan Jan 27 at 2:28
  • @dan Not following the official standard doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. More often than not, people pronounce it “incorrectly” anyway. A lot of times native speakers do not follow the official pronunciation, simply because they are used to saying their own version within their communities. At the end of the day, they are still understood perfectly. – Axel Tong Jan 27 at 2:56
  • For example the standard pronunciation of 主角 is zhǔ jué, but many people still pronounce it as zhǔ jiǎo. The meaning still gets across. – Axel Tong Jan 27 at 2:59
  • It's worth to point out standard way because we suppose to mark it as de in a standard test. I prefer teaching second language learners standard pronunciation. Of course, you did add some value to point out that some people might pronounce it differently. – dan Jan 27 at 3:48
  • Agreed, and in my experience it really helps if some rules can be given context in daily usage. – Axel Tong Jan 27 at 3:50

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