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Question:

[This question might be related also to Use of 真的 as adverb ]

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In Chinese grammar, 的 can either be:

  • particle used in Modifier-Head construct. e.g. adjective acting word + 的 + noun acting word.
  • possessive particle. e.g. A的B, meaning A's B.
  • particle used in Adverbial-Head construct. e.g. adverb-acting word + 的 + verb acting word.
  • particle used to strengthen tone at the end of a sentence.

Since 真 used in this context is unlikely to be a noun, unless they are talking about X of truth. But then by convention the word 真實 would be used.

Therefore, 真 is a modifier/adverbial in this sense, describing the quality of the head.


Here are some examples:

    這   是   真   的    勞力士。 (A more literal translation: This is real Rolex)
1. \S/  \-----Predicate-----/
2.      \P/  \----Object----/       P: Predicator
3.           \M/  的    \Head/      M: Modifier  
A: 聽說你辭職了。這是真的嗎?       A: I heard you resigned. Is this real? (Normally in English, one might say: "Did you really?" instead)
B: 真   的    (辭職了)。          B: Yes, it is. (A more literal translation: It is real resignation.)
  \M/   的     \Head/

The head is implied in this example, so we need to fill back in the details for the analysis.

    他   真   的   來   了。           He really came.
1. \S/  \---Predicate---/
2.      \A/  的   \H/  了             A: Adverbial    H: Head
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  • particle used in Adverbial-Head construct. e.g. adverb-acting word + 的 + verb acting word. wouldn't that be 地 ? – blackgreen Jun 15 at 13:26
  • @blackgreen yes, according to 國語辭典 of the Taiwanese Ministry of Education, 的 can be used in place of 地. – Daniel Cheung Jun 15 at 14:00
  • @blackgreen 真的 really confused me personally though because I didn't use to think 真的 as an adverb. But in this example sentence I've written above, there is no way the 的 was modifying a noun-acting word or phrase. – Daniel Cheung Jun 15 at 14:03
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Don't have to be explained as adv. Personally I still treated it as adj.

"我真的要走了"

"我要走了, 这是真的"

"我要走了, 这是真的(事)"

it is true that I am leaving.

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Well, here is an explanation of the character 真 (may or may not be accurate):

Character decomposition 字形分解 [?]: Component 真 older 眞

from (rem- 十 shí) from

person-facing-right-bi 匕 bǐ and

(rem- 具 jù) from

container-ding 鼎 dǐng.

(name- ding-truth-zhen 真眞 zhēn)

Decomposition notes 字形分解说明 [?]: (- a person 匕 swaring [sic] over a 鼎 dǐng, must be real and true)

Thus the meaning of 真 is more 'true, real' You swore this over some sacred 'ding'. Ancient voodoo!

really: c. 1400, originally in reference to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist,

really is 'real = true, genuine' + 'lic = body'

Meaning: 'the real body of Christ is in the Eucharist.' Catholic voodoo!

我真要走了。
I true want go.
I truly wish to leave.

Reminds me of 'very'.

Western Grammar will tell you 'very' is an "adverb of degree", but very comes directly from Old French 'verai' and Latin 'verax' = true, right, truthful.

In Chinese you can say: 我妈, 我爸 which is no different to 我的妈, 我的爸。

What does 的 mean?

No meaning, it just aids rhythm and punctuation, it aids clarity of speech by separating words which otherwise might be misconstrued. I think it must have first been used in spoken language.

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  • Sorry my question wasn't very clear, I was most interested in the purpose of 的. – Puco4 Jun 8 at 9:24
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    的 can often be omitted. It just aids rhythm and punctuation, it aids clarity of speech by separating words which otherwise might be misconstrued. Old Chinese had no punctuation I'm told. Imagine you write English, all words together and no punctuation! How would you know which bits belong together? 你买的书真有意思。 The book you bought is really interesting. 你买书真有意思。 ??The fact that you buy books is really interesting.?? 的 specifies. – Pedroski Jun 8 at 22:49

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