I learned that a verb phrase modifying a noun should precede the noun with 的 in between, like this:

我还有很多要学习的东西。(I still have a lot to learn.)

However, I have seen some people speak like this:


So I was wondering what kind of grammatical structure is the second sentence? And if the second sentence is the correct one, are there any differences between the two sentences? Thank you.

  • 1
    My immediate reaction is that the second option is technically incorrect, but is an artefact of spoken language that leverages people's ability to remember small tidbits of a sentence for later. The sentence technically means "I have a lot of things that need to study" -- as in the things need to study, which is obviously not the intended meaning of the sentence (most of the time), but in spoken language, we can often hold the "东西" in memory while we parse the 要学习 that comes later in the sentence. Seems like a common thing for somebody to say if they're focused on how much stuff they have.
    – Marko
    Jun 11, 2020 at 2:31

2 Answers 2


People like variations in word order. The word order is not fixed forever. I don't think a proscriptive approach to grammar is helpful. In the end, natural language will win.

Like Marko commented, "as in the things need to study, which is obviously not the intended meaning of the sentence"

The basic sentence is:
【】is then an adjective.
我有【(我)要学习】的东西。 I have things I want to/must study

This below works because we know 东西 don't study, people study.

I have many things (that) I want to study.

Put a noun like 学生 in there that can study and the student is no longer 我:

I still have many students (who) want to study this course.


The two sentences have the same meaning, but the second one is more fluent and more polite. In Chinese we say the two sentence "妹有区别".

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