So the age old question of 的, 地, 得, when do you use which? When spoken, it all sounds the same, but on paper it depends on if it's a verb, noun, adjective. But I don't quite remember if that is all that matters or which applies to which.

Can someone refresh my memory?

  • learn a bit of classical and you'll never get them confused, if only because constructions involving the same 得 are ubiquitous
    – magnetar
    Commented Dec 25, 2011 at 20:10
  • 4
    A grammar book I read recently suggests that it's not so important which is which and that you can use 的 in all the cases (maybe not in an important exam but in everyday use). That was confirmed by a Chinese friend who told me to use 的 where it should have been 得. To be confirmed though, but check out recent grammar books.
    – laurent
    Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 13:52
  • 1
    Forget it, even a native speaker get confused sometimes.
    – user1060
    Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 16:32
  • 6
    I don't agree with @Laurent's grammar book. The difference among 的-地-得 is not difficult to learn. Writing in good grammar will make a good impression.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 8:00
  • 6
    As another point of disagreement with @Laurent, it should be noted that the three are only homonyms in Mandarin. In other Chinese varieties, they are pronounced differently and replacing one with the other would sound obviously wrong when read out loud. For instance, in Cantonese, 的-地-得 are dik1-dei2-dak1.
    – Claw
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 8:12

13 Answers 13


The usage of “的” is in possessive or adjectival context. E.g., (posessive) “我的狗”, or (adjectival) “真正的生意人”. Generally a noun is modified, so a noun follows it, unless it doesn't, such as “有点儿不足是难免的”, (some insufficiency is unavoidable) which is still an adjectival modifier (unavoidable), even though it modifies the noun (insufficiency) in front of it.

“地” is used usually as an adverbial modifier, following the modifier and preceding the verb. For example, in “她伤心地说” (she said sadly).

The last one, “得”, is distinct, because it's a potential complement, not a modifier. It follows a verb to show the result. So the structure is VERB + 得 + RESULT. One of the things I found confusing about this, coming from English, is that it leads to some structures that have bit of repetition. So to say "she speaks Chinese very well", you use something like "she speaks Chinese, speaks very well", i.e., “她说中文说得很好”.

Since both “得” and “地” come between a verb and something else, they can be easy to confuse. But just remember that if "de" functions as an adverb, the verb comes after it and “地” is appropriate, but if you are trying to complement or completes the verb that precedes it, then use “得”, even in weird cases like “好得很”!

For short, just remember: “地” usually appears before the verb while “得” appears after the verb. eg. “这件事漂亮地完成了。” and “这件事完成得漂亮。” these two sentences are correct in grammar, although they have slight differences in emotion.

  • I still don't fully understand the difference between 地 and 得. What is for instance the difference between 他很好地说汉语 and 他说汉语说得很好 ? In my view both are just adverbial usages ?
    – Paul Praet
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 20:22
  • @PaulPraet “这件事完成得漂亮。” There isn't 了. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 10:07
  • We won't say something like 他很好地说汉语 but 他说汉语说得很好. 得 also have the meaning of "have to"
    – Pete C.
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 13:18
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    For completeness, I wish this answer would also address that all three also have also have other uses: 得 (dei3) can also mean 'must' or 'have to'. 的 (di1) can also be used in 打的 meaning 'to call a cab'. Lastly, 地 (di4) can be used to mean 'place' or 'land', used in words like '地方'.
    – Stephen C
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 18:15
  • @PaulPraet They mean exactly the same. “S A 地 V” and “S V 得 A” can be used interchangeablely.
    – Victor
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 17:39

Here's a trick my Chinese teacher told me (and it rhymes!):


Use 地 (土字旁) before verbs, 的 (白字旁) before nouns, and 得 (双人旁) between a verb and an adverb.



You can practice here.

  • THIS IS AWESOME! I am going to teach it to my wife later tonight! Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 3:43
  • Yeah, this is a perfect awesome answer. Thanks for the sharing.
    – mjb
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 1:52
  • 1
    The challenge is hilarious: 目的地的的得得的地 "the territory (地) that the taxi (的, short for 的士) at the destination (目的地) has to (得) occupy (得, short for 得到)". Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 0:35
  • @ZhuoyunWei I think you had one too many 得,right? Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 12:41

的 is always followed by a noun, 地 appears after adverbs, and 得 is used after verbs.

  • 你的苹果 your apple
  • 快乐地唱 sing delightfully
  • 跑得很快 run very fast
  • 2
    An interesting phenomenon, many 地 are replaced by 的 in China, TV, book, newspaper, everywhere
    – George
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:16
  • Is 快乐 an adverb then? My dicitonary says it is an adjective.
    – hana
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 16:48

It's easy to distinguish them.

  • Before a noun, like 家, we use 的, 我的家.
  • Before a verb, like 学习, we use 地, 好好地学习.
  • Before an adjective or adverb, like 快, we use 得, 跑得快.

In fact, I dont think you need to distinguish 的 地 or 得 from others, because even as native speakers, we spend much time learning them. Also, we (even many tv programs)often use 的 instead of 地 and 得 since its convenient although its considered as a bad, even wrong way.

  • 2
    this is reassuring :-) Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 10:46
  • 5
    I would not upvote this answer, because this is a basic ability even taught in a primary school! Some people can't choose the right one to use just because they didn't study hard even in primary school. Or they didn't pay attention to the result of a Pinyin input method, but most of them would check in hand-writing documents. 的-地-得, completely different. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 9:59

I have to tell you that not all Chinese can tell them apart now, although we've learnt it in primary school.

You should be really good at Chinese if you can easily tell the difference.

的 => adj. + n.

地 => adv. + v.

得 => v. + adv.


  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mou某
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 11:02

What is the difference between “的”“地”and “得”, and how to use these three words? It is not an easy problem. I’m not kidding, because the pronunciation of these three word are same. So next we are going to talk about how to use the “的, 地, and 得” in Chinese. The pronunciation of these three word are same. All of them pronounced “de” with natural tone. But we cannot make them wrong in writing.

  1. “的” is a structural auxiliary word which attached at the back of an attributive modifier. It is a kind of symbol of attributive. And I can give you some structures. Adj.+的+N. 漂亮的裙子 聪明的孩子 Sb.+的+Sth. 我的书 他们的房子 Sb.+的+Sb. 他的哥哥 我的姐姐 But in this structure , “的”can be omitted. You can say “他哥哥”/“我姐姐”also.

  2. “地” is a structural auxiliary word which attached at the back of the adverbial modifier. It is a kind of symbol of adverbials. Here is a structure also. Adj.+地+V. 高兴地笑 迅速地离开

  3. “得” is a structural auxiliary word which attached at the back of the verb or adjective, the front of complement. It is a kind of symbol of complement. The structure is “V.+得+adj.” 师傅开车开得很快。 她说话说得很慢。

If you still don't know how to use “的”“地”and “得”, you can see the video http://www.hanbridgemandarin.com/course/demo/de-de-de







You can remember some examples, compare with them when you use. For example, 我的书,好得很,认真地读, or 我在认真地读我的那本好得很的书.


Put it in simple way:

-的 is used as possessive suffix or adjective suffix, i.e 我的 (I + 的 = my) or 美的 (beuaty + 的 = beautiful)

-地 is a adverb suffix, it works as -ly in English, i.e. 快地(quickness + 地 = quickly)

-得 is a particle word after a verb to soften the action (Verb), so it doesn't mean anything.


的 = -'s , -tive, -ful

地 = -ly (before a verb)

得 = -ly (after a verb)

For example,

小明书 = Xiaoming's book

美丽景色 = beautiful scenery

飞快跑 = quickly run

快 = run quickly

My personal complaints:

It is indeed a problem that these three particles are pronounced the same in Mandarin. In fact, they are pronounced completely different in other Chinese.

Meaning Mandarin
Attributive (定语)
[-'s , -tive, -ful]
的 (de) 嘅 (ge3) 兮 (ê) 其 (gì)
Adverbial (状语)
[-ly (before a verb)]
地 (de) 咁 (gam2) 仔 (á) 咯 (luó)
Complement (补语)
[-ly (after a verb)]
得 (de) 到 (dou3) 甲 (gak) 尽 (zìng)

This is also the reason why I dislike Mandarin being chosen as the standard of Chinese. Mandarin is really poorly designed in my opinion.


Today, we're going to explain another holy trinity in Chinese grammar: the three “de” particles of Chinese.

These particles are some of the hardest components of Chinese grammar. Even native speakers often mix them up.

The particle "de" is used to modify another noun, verb, or adjective. For example, if the Chinese wanted to say “quietly,”, they would say “安静地 (Ān jìng de).”. Or, if they wanted to say “Sara’s house,”, they would say “莎拉de房子.”.

There are three de particles. They are all pronounced “de” with the neutral tone when used as a particle, which is why people can easily confuse them with one another. Similar to how “their, they’re, and there” are some of the most common typos in the English language, “的," "得," and "地” are also some of the most common grammar mistakes in Chinese.

  • 的 (de) for modifying nouns
  • 得 (de), for modifying verbs
  • 地 (de), for modifying adjectives (into adverbs)


Used as a noun modifier, “的 (de)” is most commonly used to indicate possession, such as the “’s” in English. As previously mentioned, “Sara’s house” would be "莎拉的房子 (shā lā de fáng zi).”

“的 (de)” is also used in noun attribution, where it is placed between an adjective and a noun. For example:

"红色的自行车。 (hóng sè de zì xíng chē)" The red bike.

Here are some basic structure formulas for you that cover most uses of the particle:

POSSESSIVE “的” Noun + 的 + Noun

ATTRIBUTIVE “的” Adjective + 的 + Noun


This “de” is usually placed after verbs in order to signify the outcome of that verb or to modify it. It is particularly tricky for English speakers because there’s no equivalent in English. An example of how 得 (de) can be used is:

他唱得很好。 (tā chàng dé hěn hǎo) He sang very well.

Note how the 得 (de) particle came after the verb 唱 (Chàng), or “sing.”

It is also used as a potential complement, giving someone the ability to do something. For example:

你看得见吗? (nǐ kàn dé jiàn ma) Can you see?

我不戴眼镜就看不见。 (wǒ bù dài yǎn jìng jiù kàn bù jiàn) I can’t see without my glasses.

Notice that when the sentence changes to “I can’t…” the 得 (de) particle is replaced by the negative word “不 (bù).” This is especially difficult to grasp.

Another way the 得 (de) particle is used is in comparison. For example:

洛杉矶比旧金山热得多。 (luò shān jī bǐ jiù jīn shān rè dé duō) Los Angeles is a lot hotter than San Francisco.

When it’s not used as a particle 得 (de) is also used on it is own as part of “得到 (dé dào)” or “to gain.” Here, it takes on the second tone, "dé." It can also be pronounced as “děi” with the third tone, where it then means “must.” Here are some basic structure formulas for you:

VERB MODIFIER 得 Verb + 得 + Adjective

COMPARATIVE 得 Adjective + 得 + Comparison word (ie more, less)


This “de” particle is usually placed after adjectives in order to transform them into adverbs. It is most like the suffix “–ly” in English. It is fairly straightforward. An example is:

他快快地跑过来。 (tā kuài kuài dì pǎo guò lái) He quickly ran over.

Additional Tip: When adjectives are transformed into adverbs with “de” in Chinese, they are often repeated twice. 快 (kuài) is “quick”, but when it is attached to 地 it becomes “快快地 (kuài kuài dì)” or literally, “Quick quickly.” Many adjectives do this in Chinese for emphasis purposes.

When 地 (de) is not used as a particle, it is read “dì” and used to mean “ground” or “earth.” For example, 土地 (tǔ dì) is “dirt.”

Here is a quick formula:

ADVERBIAL 地 Adjective + 地 + Verb

Source: https://blog.tutorabcchinese.com/mandarin-chinese-learning-tips/de-particles-in-chinese-grammar


的 and 地 are easy to learn. 的 is used for adj. 地 is used for adv. 得 is not clean to be translated well.

But one good thing is even Chinese young people cannot do this separation well. The new Chinese culture book for primary school in China mainland is use 的 only. This question will be meanless within 2 decades.

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