In this post on the omission of the possessive 的,I came across an explanation of the adjective suffix 的 by Tang Ho. An example was:

强大勇敢 (brave + strong) = correct without 的

强大勇敢的人 (brave and strong man) = correct with 的

强大勇敢人 (X) *requires 的 to connect brave + strong with 人

Later in the explanation:

Adjectives that do not need adjective suffix can directly apply to the object 【meaning no need for 的】

For example, 好 in 好女兒 (good daughter) does not necessitate the use of 的。 It's just understood that 好 connects with 女兒。

Why does 高大的人 require 的 whereas 好女兒 does not? How can you tell whether an adjective requires a suffix such as 的?

1 Answer 1


Single character adjectives do not need possessive 的 when it is connected to single character nouns

利刀, 大樹,好人

Single character adjectives do not need possessive 的 when it is connected to multiple characters nouns

利斧頭,大樹屋(tree house),好女兒

Two characters adjectives need possessive 的 when connected to single character nouns

鋒利的刀, 巨大的樹, 混亂的心,cannot be reduced to 鋒利刀, 巨大樹, 混亂心

Two characters adjectives do not need possessive 的 when connected to two characters nouns


An adjective phrase contains more than one or more individual descriptions need possessive 的 when connected to nouns

鋒利(而)昴貴的武器, 强大(而)勇敢的人 cannot be reduced to 鋒利(而)昴貴武器,强大(而)勇敢人

If you can insert 而 between the two descriptions, you need the possessive 的


When you can bond an adjective and noun into a single common term, the possessive 的 would not be needed

強大的人 --> 強人

高大的樹 --> 大樹

巨大的石頭 --> 巨石

春天的雨 --> 春雨

強人(strongman),大樹 (tall tree),巨石 (boulder),春雨(spring rain) are all common terms,

  • What about with these? 中文男朋友,美國女朋友 May 18, 2020 at 15:16
  • And is it okay, when it doubt, to add 的 in between adj + noun just to be safe? Would it severely alter the meaning when used but not needed? (I guess just sounds a bit clunky/redundant) May 18, 2020 at 15:19
  • Lastly would another example of a "common term" be 語法書?No need for 的, 對吧? Thank you so much for all your help May 18, 2020 at 15:22
  • 1
    In daily conversation, '說中文的男朋友' and '來自美國的女朋友' can be reduced to '中文男友' and '美國女友' , We shorten long sentences all the time. Adding 的 when it is not needed just show you are not native speaker, eventually you will learn to drop 的 as much as possible
    – Tang Ho
    May 18, 2020 at 18:00
  • 1
    語法書 is valid for another reason-- because 語法 is a noun, Put it in front of 書 to describe it make it a [adjectival noun], adjectival nouns do not need possessive 的, Example: 美國女友, 春雨, 醫學書藉,法國餐
    – Tang Ho
    May 18, 2020 at 18:10

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