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In the reply to 你是什么时候去上班的?, what does the in 我是九点去上班的 mean? I think that without the , the sentence makes sense in and of itself, right?

And the meaning is that I start to work at 9:00 am...., right?

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These other answers are good, but they're missing the crucial element, which is why you have the in that sentence. It's because , roughly translated into English as is, am, are, is a linking verb that is expecting a noun. If you said 我是九点去上班 that would essentially mean, I am go to work at nine. Which, of course, doesn't make sense.

However, takes whatever is before it and turns it into an adjective, thus making "go to work at nine" an adjective. You're probably thinking, "Where's the noun, then?" Well, the noun is implied. That means that 我是九点去上班的 translates into I am a go-to-work-at-nine-type of (implied noun), or rather, I am a person who goes to work at nine.

Make sense? It sounds a little convoluted, but that's what's going on.

  • +1 for the correct analysis of the sentence structure. – Claw Sep 19 '14 at 18:31
  • No, that explanation is wrong. Here 的 just simply makes the sentence into "past tense". It's more like explaining a one-off event (I went to work at nine today). Another example: A: 你今天怎么没做饭啊?(Why didn't you cook today?) B: 哦,我是在外面吃的。(Oh, I ate outside.) – Lifu Tang Mar 8 '15 at 22:05
  • @EdwardFox, I'm not sure I agree with you there. It doesn't necessarily imply past tense. 他是吃素的 can translate into "He's a vegetarian", implied "that is the current state of his eating habits". – Lars Andren Dec 3 '15 at 12:05
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    The "...-type" can be right, but still 是……的 can represent an emphasize of past truth. Plus, there is which is rarely used in that "type" case. -妻子:你什么时候出门的?(Wife: When did you get out of the house?) -丈夫:我是九点去上班的。(Husband: It was nine when I was going to work.) -领班:你是哪个班次的?(Head: Which shift are you on?) -工人:我是九点上班的。(Worker: I am on the nine-o-clock shift.) – Jamesits Dec 4 '15 at 6:15
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    @EdwardFox The problem with the "Context matters" argument is that tense in Chinese, no matter the grammar pattern, always depends on context. So while 今天我是在学校就把作业做完了的 does imply past tense in that context, so could 今天我在学校就把作业做完了. – musicnothing Dec 7 '15 at 15:55
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Here it's a 是 + 的 combo sandwich, where 是 + 的 emphasizes what's in the middle.

我是九点去上班 doesn't sound right - because here 是 and 的 are like bookends with one bookend missing.

You could however just say 我九点去上班 which would sound absolutely fine.

  • Is the always used along with the ? – Blaszard Sep 19 '14 at 13:10
  • not necessary. In fact 是 is used with a noun or a noun-like phase. verb (verb phase) + 的 is like a noun, but may have different meaning. for example: 吃 (verb, eat) 的: something that could be eaten 喝水 (verb phase, drink water) 的: somebody who is drinking water / drank water – gcd0318 Dec 22 '15 at 5:11
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Although I am not good at English,but as a Chinese,I have the confidence that "的" is the symbol of the adjective.For example,"office" means ”机关“.it is a noun;"official" means "官方的“.It is a adjective which adds meaning of nouns;"officially" means "官方地"It is an adverb which adds information about the action.In this sentence"我是九点去上班的”,there is something omitted that all the Chinese will do it.The full sentence is"实际上,我是九点去上班的。" means "The true is(or the situation is)that I went to work at 9:00."With "的",makes the whole sentence become a adjective which adds information about the situation.It is a past tense or not,depends on the texts or conversations.In a similar way,"他是吃素的" can translate into "He's a vegetarian",because it means"The situation is that he eat vegetables only.(or he never eat meat)" .That is why this sentence can describes a personal eatting habits.It is for Lars Andren.

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的 is really a hard word to learn

verb + objective + 的:people doing something

verb + 的:something that is done by verb, or something that could be done

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