I have read that the 是+...+的 structure is used for emphasis. I wonder in sentences describing colours like 这辆车是红色的, is the 是+...+的 structure used for emphasis too? What kind of 是+...+的 is this? Is 的 necessary in such sentences?

I really couldn't find much information about this kind of 是+...+的 structure. And I haven't found this structure except in sentences describing colours.

4 Answers 4


As a native speaker, I consulted some grammar books and couldn't find an explanation for this example, so I'm speaking from my personal thinking.

The 是+...+的 structure is necessary in this sentence. I can't think of another way to express "This car is red." You can't say "这辆车红", and "这辆车很红" has a slightly different meaning.

Is this only for colors? No. I think it is only for "quality", for things that are either yes or no, not for things that have a degree. For example, you have to say "这辆车是国产的". You can't say "这辆车国产".

The difference between 是+adjective+的 and 很+adjective is that they answer different questions.

Is it red or not red? What color is it? It is red. 它是红的。

How red is it? It is very red 它很红。


In Chinese, adjectives of quality such as 聪明(smart),漂亮(pretty),高兴(happy)and the various colour terms etc., when used in predicative construction, must be initialised with a certain value. These adjectives are associated with a compact semantic field which includes its complement as well: 聪明 ranges from "not so smart" to "vary smart". We simply cannot say *他聪明. We can say 他不聪明,他相当聪明,他很聪明, where 不,相当 or 很 serves to initialise the value (either negative or positive, because "neutral" is not a stable value).

Another way to initialise it with a certain value is to pre-build a class of occurrences and say this is an occurrence of that class: 这辆车是红色的,这本书是我的,这瓶啤酒是他买的。The construction 是...的 is the trace of an operation which indicates that we have a class of occurrences pre-built based on a term: 红色的 - a class of occurrences related to red; 我的 - a class of occurrence related to me ("what belongs to me"); 他买的 - a class of occurrences related to "what he bought".

Incidentally, this may help explain why in Chinese we say 我的车,他的房子,你的老师,我的朋友,but it is odd to say *我的爸爸 or *我的妈妈. In fact, a native speaker would most likely say 我爸爸 or 我妈妈, because we don't consider 爸爸 or 妈妈 as an occurrence among others in a class: they are unique.


Consider this: 是(verb) + 红色(adj) + 的(adv).

Yes, "的" emphasizes the color "红色", it is considered a modifier when placed at the end of the sentence.



This car is a red (car). "红色的" is adj.

red, noun, 红色

red, adj, 红色的

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.