Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by yuechu, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. yuechu Senior Member

    Canada, English

    I have a grammar question about "的" in a sentence I heard/saw today on TV:

    I'm pretty sure that this was the full sentence (with nothing after). 我想问一下: Does anyone know why is “的” being used here if there is no possession? Is this a special structure?

    Thanks in advance/谢谢!
  2. Ben pan Senior Member

    读的管理 =读的(专业) 是 管理. 所以,你的这句话也可以写成:你们俩在国外 读的都是管理?
  3. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Baosheng, the 的 in your sentence is part of the "是...的" structure, often used for highlighting a focus of information/ emphasis:
    坐船来. (I came by boat)

    If the predicate has an object, you can put 的 after the object:
    在北京上小学 (I attended primary school in Beijing)
    But usually you put it between the verb and object:

    The "是...的" structure is very important for understanding Chinese and you should try to get very familiar with it.
  4. Hihowareyou Member

    In ordinary speaking, the structure of “是......的” is used a lot . Some examples: 他是乘坐什么交通工具过来的?他是乘坐火车过来的;他的大学是在什么地方读的?他的大学是在北京读的;这件衣服是谁送给他的?这件衣服是他朋友送给他的。Or ask a question like: 他是乘坐火车过来的?他的大学是在北京读的?这件衣服是他朋友送给的?And in a more casual conversation, people would invert some parts of the sentence, and turn it into something like: 他过来是乘坐的火车?他是在北京读的大学?是他朋友送给他的这件衣服?In your case, another equivalence of the question is 你们俩的管理(专业)都是在国外读的?
  5. tarlou Senior Member

    I differ from the above two explanations.

    For #2: In "在国外读的管理", 读 is obviously a verb and 管理 is its object. In "读的是管理", however, 读的 means "what you read", which is a noun phrase, and 管理 is a definition/explanation of this noun phrase. So grammatically they are not the same thing.

    For #3: We can also remove the 是 and get a perfect sentence: 他在国外读的管理. And it differs from 他在国外读管理 mostly in tense (with 的, it is past tense; without 的, it is present progressive). So I wouldn't be convinced by the 是...的... explanation either. If it is a special type of 是...的..., then it's too special.

    The OP's sentence is like 你吃的什么?我吃的土豆丝. To me the function of 的 is to indicate the past tense, something like 了 or 过. (But the meaning is different.)

    I'm not sure about grammars. Just some doubts. << --- Comment deleted. --- >>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2013
  6. yuechu Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Ah OK! I didn't realize that this structure could be inverted (even though I use it often). It all makes sense now!

    Thanks everyone for your helpful explanations! :)
  7. zhg Senior Member

    Hi baosheng

    I think most dictionaries can answer you question quite well,here is what I found in my dictionary.

  8. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Hi zhg, the 的 in these structures is the regular 的 and I don't think baosheng would have any problem with it.

    The regular 的:
    这是他昨天买的书 (This is the book he bought yesterday)

    The 的 being discussed in this thread:
    他是在哪儿买书?(Where did he buy the book?)
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013
  9. zhg Senior Member

    Isn't 的 in baosheng's sentence of the same usage that I quote above? And looks like it matches with the description and especially the last example sentence, dosen't it?

    Well I see the difference now, baosheng's sentece has an implication that they have already graduated, which the 的less equivalent dosn't have.

    Xiaolijie it's indeed a full sentece not a phrase because you forgot to type out the period at the end which is included in the dictionary.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013
  10. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Hi zhg, I looked at your quote again and the definition is indeed what baosheng was looking for. The examples given in the quote are however ambiguous between the 2 interpretations (They can be interpreted as full sentences or just phrases, with different meanings).
    Anyway, I've added a pair of examples in post #7, I hope it has shown up the contrast.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013
  11. tarlou Senior Member

    我是在北京上的小学 is obviously not the same structure as 我是在北京上小学的.

    You say
    他是在哪儿买书?(Where did he buy the book?)​
    Are you serious and not casual?

    << --- Comment deleted. --- >>
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2013
  12. stellari Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    I'd like to add a little personal observation to the discussion. For me, the word order matters a lot in a sentence that contains 是...的 structure.
    在北京上小学is ambiguous. It could mean: 'I am currently going/went to primary school in BEIJING (as opposed to other cities)' or 'I AM CURRENTLY GOING TO/WENT TO PRIMARY SCHOOL (as opposed to other level of education) in Beijing' depending which part is stressed in speech. Note that it is unclear whether the speaker is currently going to or has been to primary school in beijing, but it is very likely s/he is still attending that school if s/he stresses 上小学.

    On the other hand, 我在北京上小学 unambiguously means 'I went to primary school in BEIJING (already finished)'

    Similarly, baosheng's sentence

    你们俩都在国外读管理 is also a little bit unclear as to which part the speaker wants to emphasize. Maybe that's why Ben Pan andHihowareyou gave different answers. It could be interpreted as one of the following, depending on which word is stressed in speech.
    你们俩在国外 读的都是管理? (Ben Pan's version. emphasizes that they majored in management, as opposed to other majors), or
    你们俩的管理(专业)都是在国外读的? (Hihowareyou's version. emphasizes that they went to school ABROAD, as opposed to domestic schools).

    However, Ben Pan's interpretation is more probable without further context, since the 是... structure tends to emphasize the content between 是 and
  13. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Now these 助词 in my mother tongue start to frustrate me... :mad: I have no way to explain them.
  14. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Hi Tarlou, there are 2 issues here in your post:

    1. Since not everyone is an expert on the "是...的" structure, take your time to consider the following quote from an acknowledged authority in conjunction with my examples "我是在北京上小学的/ 我是在北京上的小学" and "他是在哪儿买的书?":

    "When there is an object involved [as in 买+书], for reason that defies logical explanation, it is customary to place it after the 'final' de, as if it were the object of modification. While it is possible to say Wǒ shi xiàwu mǎi piào de , it is more common to say Wǒ shi xiàwu mǎi de piào"
    (P.167, Colloquial Chinese by P.C. T'ung and D.E. Pollard)

    2. I've noticed that members sometimes make posts which are in effect saying things like "I don't know if it is A but I think it is A. Since someone else said it is B, s/he must be wrong." Many members look to this forum for knowledge and learning, this kind of post is unhelpful, offensive and will be deleted. Post, therefore, only what you can be sure of, and in a polite manner; or wait for others who may be in a better position to help.

    Let's get back to the thread now but if you're still unsure of what I've said, please continue via PM.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2013
  15. BODYholic Senior Member

    Chinese Cantonese

    This looks like a 倒装句 to me. You've to rearrange the words in order to understand the sentence.
    "你们俩 / 都是在国外读/ 的管理?" --> "你们俩/ 的管理 / 都是在国外读?"

    The purpose of 倒装 is usually used to shift focus within a given sentence. This structure is uncommon in modern Chinese and I tend to see Taiwanese use it more often then native speakers from other regions.
    E.g. 一本书 vs 书一本
    我买了一本书 vs 我买了书一本

    (Note: 倒装句 is different from active/passive voice)
  16. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    I'm confused. The OP's sentence is 你们俩都是在国外读的管理. Isn't "在国外读" the content between 是 and 的? If "在国外读" is the part being emphasized, isn't 你们俩的管理(专业)都是在国外读的 (Hihowareyou's version) to be the more probable one?
    我是下午买票的 vs. 我是下午买的票 is different from 我是在北京上的小学 vs. 我是在北京上小学的 due to (1) their difference in verbs (i.e., 买 is a momentary action while 上 is a prolonged action) and (2) the existence of 在, which could serve either as a preposition like English "at" or as a modal for the progressive tense. As a result, 我是在北京上小学的 is ambiguous, as Stellari correctly stated in post #11. And I agree with Tarlou, who said in post #10 that "我是在北京上的小学 is obviously not the same structure as 我是在北京上小学的". It was also concurred by Stellari, who pointed out the difference between the two in post #11.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  17. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    This is where both you and Tarlou have gone wrong (And you're also trying to pull Stellari into your mix!)

    Here is what I said in post #3:
    And here is what the authors said as quoted in post #13:
    Then, where did you see in the above that we say the alternative sentences have "the same structure"? Language use, admittedly, can be ambiguous, but to exploit this intentionally to mislead is deplorable. I don't think any ordinary, educated English speakers would have any problem with understanding what is said in the above quotes.

    PS: Just flipped through some grammar books and found the following, which is essential what I was saying above:
    (p.589, Mandarin Chinese by Charles Li & Sandra Thompson)

    (pp.158-159, Yufa! by Wen-hua Teng)
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  18. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    Anyone with a pair of eyes can tell that they do not have the same surface structures. What we have been discussing here obviously concern their "underlying structures". The fact that you just used the word "alternative" (= alternate, substitute http://www.thefreedictionary.com/alternative) implies that you believe they are essentially equivalent. If not, what you said in post #3 would have become off-topic, simply bringing up a different structure just to confuse other learners of Chinese. So, are the two alternatives indeed essentially equivalent?
    Examine the following:
    1. 他是看门的(人) "He is a person that keeps the door" (= He is a door-keeper) vs. *他是看的门
    2. 他是讨饭的(人) "He is one that begs rice" (= He is a beggar) vs. *他是讨的饭.
    3. 这是我写的书 "This is a book I wrote" vs. *这是我写书的 (incomplete sentence).
    4. 这是我赚的钱 "This is the money I earned" vs. *这是我赚钱的 (incomplete sentence).
    5. 这些狼人是在晚上变形的(怪物) "Those werewolves are ones that change their shape at night" (= Those werewolves are shape shifters at night) or "Those werewolves were ones that changed their shape at night" vs. 这些狼人是在晚上变的形 "It was during the night when those werewolves changed their shape".
    6. 我是在北京上小学的(人) "I am one that attends an elementary school in Beijing" or "I was one that attended an elementary school in Beijing" vs. 我是在北京上的小学 "It was in Beijing where I attended my elementary school".
    7. 你们俩都是在国外读管理的(人) "Both of you are ones that study management abroad" or "Both of you are ones that studied management abroad" vs. 你们俩都是在国外读的管理 "It was in a foreign country where you both studied management".

    (人) and (怪物) in the above examples, although absent in surface structure, are to demonstrate the existence of an implied noun in the underlying structure of those sentences. 我是在北京上小学的(人) and 我是在北京上的小学 differ not only in meaning but also in structure.
  19. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    From your examples, you're obviously mixing up the "是...的" with the ordinary "A 是 B" pattern, where B happens to have 的 within it (just as in your example: 他是看门的(人)).

    Anyway, I don't think I need to say much here and I advise you not to do so either. I'm sure other members can see it for themselves.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  20. zhg Senior Member

    xiaolijie, those sentences you find in your gramma books all have clear time markers, 八点钟,下午etc, hence it doesn't matter where you put 的, because it won't change the tense, that's the reason why those rules do fit perfectly well in them. However in other cases, like sentences without clear time markers, the position of 的 can produce nuances. As you might have noticed, many posts above have already pointed them out. Grammarians aren't perfect sometimes their rules have minor defects. I think you might have taken their rules too seriously. I hope this is not off-topic.
  21. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Hi zhg,

    I understand perfectly what you say, but the "是...的" structure is not really confined to sentences with time markers like you said. The fact is, as I already noted in my first post in this thread, "是...的" is used to highlight an element inside it (= call it a "focus of information"). This focus can be on the time as in the examples you referred to but it can also be on the place (Wo shi zai Yingguo sheng de), manner (Ta shi kaiche lai de), purpose (Wo bushi lai gen ni chaojia de), etc...That is, any element that is in the context worth emphasizing.

    Obviously, ambiguity is a fact of life, as I already acknowledged in my reply (#9) to your earlier post, but this should not make the rule concerning "是...的" any less definite.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  22. zhg Senior Member

    You might have mistaken my point, I wasn't saying it's only time can be emphasized, but it's only when time is included, the position of 的 won't make a difference in meaning. In other cases, like baosheng's sentence and 北京上小学sentece, the rule can't be applied.

    Take one of your sentences for example

    The position of 的 do change the meaning.

    Add specific time marker,like今天。

    Same meaning, the position of 的 doesn't matter.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  23. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Not necessarily a change of meaning but it may introduce an addtional interpretation. For that reason, I added the following to my previous post while you were writing yours:

    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  24. zhg Senior Member

    But isn't it misleading if someone who wants to say 我开车去学校 as a habitual routine, applies the rule only to have a sentence that reads 我是开车去的学校. Which clearly is indicating a past event, while the correct way to emphasize is to put 的 at the end, 我是开车去学校的。
  25. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    This is confusing, zhg!
    First, not as you said, the sentence is not mine.
    Secondly, the distinction between "habitual routine" and "past event" is entirely yours. I've had no part in it and will not do now.
    So, it'll leave it entirely to you there :)
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  26. zhg Senior Member

    All I was saying is that the rule you quote is not perfect, it just doesn't fit in some sentences (I dare not say my additional rule based on my own observation is one hundred percent correct).But sadly it just fails to make a difference to you, as you seem to be stuck to the rule, and read them for the same meaning. Though I have tried my best finding examples to prove they are not.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  27. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    The rules are stated by long-established linguistic professionals (as I cited: 5 of them, which include 3 native Chinese speakers). It's a very good reason to trust them, zhg! They're not the kind that just push on for the simple reason that they are Chinese, and for that reason alone!
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  28. stellari Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    You are right. I meant to say 'Hihowareyou's version is more probable'. Thank you for the correction.
  29. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    xiaolijie, have you noticed the difference between 是……[noun]的 and 是……的[noun]?
    Whether they are the same structure or not is debatable.
    If you mean that they are under the general category 是……的 then we can say they are the same structure.
    But we can't say they are exactly the very same one either, because they have different meanings.

    And I think that the grammar you quoted simplify rules for the learners. In fact he only gives one example where both 是……[noun]的 and 是……的[noun]? can be used without changing the meaning.
    It doesn't cover other cases where:
    1. 是……的[noun] can't be used;
    2. or the two structure lead to a different meaning.

    By the way, this topic has already been discussed before:
  30. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Yongfun, of course I know the difference, as I already pionted that out in post #18:
    And thank you for the link to an existing thread!
  31. yuechu Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I think your four sentences here clear up everything! :) At least, I think I finally am starting to understand how this works... (well I'll just be digesting this for now since my Chinese grammar skills are so poor! :D)
    Thanks for deducing these rules, zhg, and to everyone else, as well, for your help!
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2014

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