Chinese Particles – GW-Helper-Possession-助词-的

About “Helpers”

Linguists would call 的 a “Particle,” which is about the least useful term we can imagine for conceptualizing what this type of word does. However, the Chinese name for ‘particle’ is ‘助词 zhùcí – ‘help word.’ It’s for this reason that we refer to Chinese particles like “了,” “着,” or “的” as “Helpers.”

In The Mandarin Blueprint Method video course, all sentences that contain a helper will have the tag “GW-Helper.”

Chinese Particle 的 – Sentence 1:

我的儿子吓呆了。 – Level 13
Wǒde érzi xià dāi le.
My son was scared senseless.

Easy peasy! 的 particle connects 我 & 儿子 to indicate the son belongs to ‘我.’ As a side note, the ‘host’ of the sentence (which linguists call a ‘subject’ or ‘主语 zhǔyǔ’) is 我的儿子. 

Sentence 2:

我早上骂了我的儿子。 – Level 13
Wǒ zǎoshang mà le wǒde érzi.
I scolded my son this morning.

Here we have the same point of possession (我的儿子), but instead of being the ‘host’ (subject 主语 zhǔyǔ), it’s the ‘guest’ (object 宾语 bīnyǔ). 

Chinese Particle 的- Sentence 3:

我明白你说的话。 – Level 13
Wǒ míngbai nǐ shuō de huà.
I understand what you said.

This one is a bit more abstract because what “你” is possessing is “话 – words.” It’s taken to an even more specific level by saying, “你*说*的话.” This way, you know that it’s precisely the spoken words (as opposed to written). 

Sentence 4 (and Variations):

Zhuōzi shàng de sháozi shì nǐde ma?
Is the spoon on the table yours?

Here we see the 的 particle creating a possession relationship between a table-top and the object on it. We don’t say “the tabletop’s spoon” in English, but you’ll see this happen in Chinese all the time. Here are some more examples to illustrate this point:

Zhuōzi shàng de bēizi shì nǐde ma?
Is the glass on the table yours?

Zhuōzi shàng de bǐjìběn shì nǐde ma?
Is the notebook on the table yours?

Zhūozi xià de dōngxi qǐng dǎsǎo dǎsǎo.
Please clean up the things under the table.

As a final point, you’ll notice that the second “的” particle doesn’t have any object after it. That’s because the object the speaker is referring to is still the 勺子, so there’s no need to repeat it twice:

Zhuōzi shàng de sháozi shì nǐde (sháozi) ma?
Is the spoon on the table your spoon?

You can find more examples here.

Grammar Rules ≠ Grammar Acquisition

We hope you’ll find these grammar lessons helpful, but please bear in mind that you will naturally acquire grammar by reading content you understand. This is how you acquired your native language, and your brain hasn’t fundamentally changed how it achieves fluency between then and now.

Sure, as adults, we can conceptualize abstract grammar rules and answer the question, “why is [X] structured this way?” but it doesn’t directly help you acquire the language. THAT’S WHY THESE ARE BONUS LESSONS. At best, grammar points aide in your noticing patterns, but that’s it. They don’t TEACH the pattern. Read our article “Is there such a thing as learning grammar” to learn more about this.

grammar rules gw-helper
18 May , 2020
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