I'm confused with the possessive particle 的, it was explained to me as 's in English and "of" something. Like, Y的X becomes X of Y.


Here are two sentences that from that logic would both mean the same thing and both be correct. However, we would put 的 at the end in this case. But I'm not sure why. Another example would be:


Here the first sentence is correct and how I would write it, whereas in the first example I would have used the second sentence which would be wrong?

  • 1
    In both pairs of sentences the second one is not grammatical. The first ones don't follow the same exact pattern... I'm having a bit of a hard time figuring out what you are asking.
    – blackgreen
    Aug 1, 2020 at 23:14
  • Then why are the first sentences grammatical and why did the pattern change?
    – Wojciech
    Aug 1, 2020 at 23:24
  • The first sentences can be translated as "that is theirs" and "their money". "他們的" are respectively possessive pronoun and possessive adjective here. The second sentence of the second example may work if you put a comma: "錢, 他們的" which means "The money is theirs". Aug 1, 2020 at 23:35
  • Related: Using 的 at the end of a sentence.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Aug 2, 2020 at 3:52

6 Answers 6


他们的钱 isn't a sentence but a nominal phrase, meaning their money.

钱他们的 could be taken as the shorthand of 这钱是他们的.

那是他们的 is correct. However 他们的是那 isn't. You need a measure word there. E. g. 他们的是那个。It's hard to explain why.


Shandong people like me tend to reverse the order of some sentences in spoken language. For example: 山东人我是. The sentence is definitely not grammatical. I admit it is a bad habit, but it is very common in my hometown. I guess this phenomenon might also be found in other areas.


他們的 means "theirs".

他們的是那。 is not correct. If you want to put 那 on a latter place, use 他們的是那一個。 or 他們的是那一件。.


那是他们的。 correct

他们的是那。 Basically it's incorrect, beacuse it's not a complete sentence. If your sentence is "他们的是那個", it would be correct.

他们的钱。 correct

钱他们的。 Actually, it's correct.

E.g. 這是我的車.(This is my car). 這車是我的.(This car is mine). More shorter "車我的" is also understandable for native user.

  • If the second sentence is incomplete and needs a addition after 的, why is the first sentence complete and does not need a addition? Similarly with "這車是我的".
    – Wojciech
    Aug 2, 2020 at 11:45

I think maybe your question should be how to use 那 rather than 的。

那[個]是他们的。 If you use 那 at the beginning of a sentence, the 個 usually could be ignored.

他们的是那個。 If you use 那 at the end of a sentence, the 個 usually can't be ignored. I'll introduce you an expection. The expection explains why 他们的是那 is incorrect, especially when this sentence is talking about objects.

You can use 那 to end a sentence in order to answer WHERE question or represent DIRECTION. (那 contains DIRECTION meaning itself.)

Example A:

Q:火車站在哪? (Where is the railway station?)

A:火車站往那! (You point a direction to indicate where the railway station is.)

Example B:

Q: Where is my book?

A: 你的書在那!(You point to the table at right hand side, because the book is on that table.)

So, back to your question...

他们的是那。 Is this sentence saying that some kind of DIRECTION belong to them? It doesn't make any sense, right? As a native user, I'll expect a 個、些..etc at the end of 他们的是那__.


If we want to interpret 的 as corresponding to 's in English, we'll need to change the noun: we don't add 's to their to indicate possession in English. So let's change 他们 to a random name: Michael.

那是他们的 -> 那是Michael的。
That is theirs -> That is Michael's.

No problems above, both in Chinese and English.

他们的是那个 -> Michael的是那个。
Theirs is that one -> Michael's is that one.

For this one, I believe we need to add a measure word 个 (like in English too).

他们的钱 -> Michael的钱
Their money -> Michael's money

This is not a sentence in English (nor Chinese) since it contains no verb, but it could be contained inside a sentence.

钱他们的 -> 钱Michael的。
Money theirs -> money Michael's

This should be considered ungrammatical (perhaps it's okay under some uncommon interpretation, but a Chinese teacher will likely mark this as plain wrong). We can fix this by adding a 是:

钱是他们的 -> 钱是Michael的。
[The] money is theirs -> [The] money is Michael's

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