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I do not understand the meaning of 的 in the following sentence:

我爸爸是美国人,妈妈是意大利人,我十岁才到美国。

This sentence is in my Chinese textbook. At first, I had thought it may be wrong. Afterward, I run into another sentence with the same structure and need to check grammar.

Please explain it to me.

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    I think you need to show a little homework here. Why don't you understand the sentence? What have you tried to figure it out? – Mo. Jun 23 at 12:48
  • @user3306356 This sentence is in my Chinese textbook. At first, I had thought it may be wrong. Afterward, I run into another sentence with the same structure and need to check grammar (in this source: resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/…) You can find the answer below. – Jenny Jun 23 at 13:18
  • You might want to add some of those details into your question, otherwise you might get flagged. We have a flag here: "off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated." – Mo. Jun 23 at 13:25
  • @user3306356 while I agree that some more effort on Jenny's side would be nice, at least for the sake of other readers, the flag reminder text reads: Questions asking for _translations_ are off-topic unless [...]. I wouldn't say this question is a mere request for translation, so I'm a little confused. What is the correct way to address this? – blackgreen Jun 23 at 13:42
  • May be she felt 的 in "我爸爸是美国人,妈妈是意大利人,我十岁才到的美国。" seems out of place. I had answered many of her questions about the usage of 的 and this sentence doesn't sound correct with 的 in it – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 13:47
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[...] after reading my grammar notebook, I think that 的 belongs to "是...的" structure, though 是 is omitted in this sentence. Take a look at [this resource] and focus on the part of "Position of 的". It is said that 的 can be put between the verb and the object.

Your grammar notebook correctly addressed the use of 的 in your example.

Compare to 我(是)七点到的学校, 我(是)5点下的班,etc.

Those are often heard in day-to-day conversations.

Here is more quote from dictionary definition:

(用在谓语动词后面, 强调动作的施事者、时间、地点等):

I made the sketch; he filled in the colours.

是我打的稿子, 他上的色。

It was the year before last that he went to Xizang [Tibet].

他前年去的西藏。

| improve this answer | |
  • Again, in 是我打的稿子(it is the manuscript I drafted) or 我打的稿子 ( the manuscript I drafted) 的 still marks 我打的 as an adjectival phrase for the noun 稿子 – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 12:12
  • wouldn't 我(是)七点到学校(的) and 我(是)5点下班( 的) make more sense than 我(是)七点到(的)学校 and 我(是)5点下(的)班 ? – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 12:16
  • @TangHo No need to argue more then. It looks like you are completely unaware of this usage of 的. – dan Jun 23 at 12:24
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    I asked an expert: "Shouldn't "我(是)七点到的学校" be "这(是)我七点到的学校"?" He answered "The first sentence is used for emphasis on the time '7 o'clock'. The second sentence uses an adjectival clause to modify the noun 'school'." It proves [七点][到的] emphasizes the time 七点 and [十岁才][到的] emphasizes the age at the time 十岁. I honestly never considered this usage because the more commonly way to use 的 is to emphasize the object – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 23:31
  • @TangHo You bet! – dan Jun 23 at 23:59
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Edit 2:

I asked an expert: "Shouldn't "我(是)七点到的学校" be "这(是)我七点到的学校"?" He answered "The first sentence is used for emphasis on the time '7 o'clock'. The second sentence uses an adjectival clause to modify the noun 'school'." It proves [七点][到的] emphasizes the time 七点 and [十岁才][到的] emphasizes the age at the time 十岁. I honestly never considered this usage because the more common way to use 的 is to emphasize the object

[我十岁才][到的]美国 emphasizes the age at the time I came to America

Edit:

OP posted the full sentence, the answer have to be edited too

我爸爸是美国人,妈妈是意大利人,我十岁才到的美国。

的 might be accidentally added . 我爸爸是美国人,妈妈是意大利人,我十岁才到美国 make more sense. There's no need for 的 to be in this sentence

~

的 can function as 'adjectival marker'

  • Without other context, 的 in [我十岁才到的] 美国。is an adjectival marker. It marks "我十岁才到的" as an adjectival phrase that modifies the noun 美国

  • without other context, 的 in 我是[十岁才到美国的] modifies the noun 我

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After reading all answers (and my notebook), I draw 2 conclusions:

(A) 的 can be a typo. 我十岁才到美国 is a better sentence without 的.

(B) 的 comes from "是...的" structure and 是 is omitted.

However, in my Chinese textbook, there is another sentence with the same structure.

我是前天到的北京,2年前曾经在中国学过2年汉语,是王老师的学生。

That's why I am more inclined towards the second conclusion. I should have made it clear earlier, so it might avoid unnecessary arguments.

Thanks Dan, Tang Ho and 小奥利奥 for your answers!

| improve this answer | |
  • It has nothing to do with [是...的] structure. With or without 是, 的 still normally modifies the noun after it, not the subject. The main problem is placing 的 between the verb and object. It implies 的 function not as an adjectival marker or a possess marker, but as an verb particle similar to '得‘ e.g. 我是前天到[得]北京的. 得 denotes the verb is completed and also emphasizes the object e.g. 到北京一定要上長城 --> 到得北京一定要上長城. And I notice some Mandarin use 得 and 的 interchangeable in some context. e.g. 做得辛苦/ 做的辛苦 – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 15:34
  • I can assure you that 的 here is not a typo at all. Try to look up any decent dictionary about 的,you would find a similar definition as I attached in my answer. This use of 的 is very popular within at least the mainland. – dan Jun 23 at 20:11
  • It also has nothing to do with 得. – dan Jun 23 at 20:21
  • It seems that, based on all the inputs so far, speakers outside of mainland wouldn't recognize this use of 的. – dan Jun 23 at 20:37
  • We know the usage of 的 in examples like 買書 --> 誰買的書 ; 到美国--> 我到的美国 that insert 的 between the verb and the object to emphasize the subject and object. I just think 我是前天到的北京 should be 是我前天到的北京 or 我是前天到北京的 – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 21:35
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This might be a stretch and completely wrong, but in many cases I assume 的 is saying the thing following it has the property of the thing preceding it.

So the first half of the phrase "我十岁才到" is saying "I only just arrived when I was 10 years old", whereas the latter part "美国" is just "America". Taken as a whole that would be "America with the proprerty of me only just arriving as a ten year old". I'm not sure how grammatically correct that would be but to me it comes across as someone reminiscing about how America was when they were 10 and only just arrived here.

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    You are not wrong. See example: [我十岁才到的美国 ] 跟 [今天的美國]相比友善得多 - [The America I arrived when I was ten], is more friendly compare to [the America today] – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 7:41
  • "我十岁才到的" and "今天的" are adjectival phrases for the noun 美國 -- One of the function of 的 is to mark a phrase as adjectival – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 7:52
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    Hi Tang Ho and 小奥利奥, after reading my grammar notebook, I think that 的 belongs to "是...的" structure, though 是 is omitted in this sentence. Take a look at resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/… and focus on the part of "Position of 的". It is said that 的 can be put between the verb and the object. – Jenny Jun 23 at 7:59
  • @Jenny Your grammar notebook is right. – dan Jun 23 at 8:28
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    adding the verb 是 and write 是我十岁才到的美国 doesn't change the fact that 的 marks 十岁才到 as an adjectival phrases for the noun 美國 – Tang Ho Jun 23 at 9:57

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