The house we built

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Alxmrphi, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English

    I'm watching the film Argo at the moment. It's in Italian but I wasn't expecting the film to have Chinese subtitles, but it does, so I'm sort of being distracted trying to match together what I hear and what I see. Anyway, given it's originally in English there is a part where there is a script on show and the title of it is The House We Built. The Chinese subtitles are:


    Now, I get that wo3 and men make the plural 'we' and jian4 is 'build'.
    At the end there is fang1 and zi together for 'house' (something I just found out a few seconds ago!).

    My dictionary says that de is used after an attribute - but I can only see the verb build.
    The only thing I can think of is I have to imagine this as some sort of 'the built house' where it's more like an adjective and de just attributes the quality of
    to 房子.

    My original question was that I was expecting le and not zi as the past marker at the end of the phrase (they look similar so I thought it could be it), but having since discovered that the zi is part of the word for 'house', that actually leaves no element to express past tense, which makes me thing this attributive adjective sort of analysis is what is actually meant here.

    Am I right here that jian4 is not really what I should think of as verb-like but more adjective in quality that is linked to 'house' by de?
    My God, I've confused myself.
  2. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    The usage of 的 can be a pain in the ass for Chinese learners. It's just like the English word "of", has many functions.
    I think you can just remember this as an example: somebody do 的 something = something that done by someone.
    e.g. 他开的车 the vehicle driven by him (the vehicle he drives), 孩子做的模型 the model made by the child(ren), 你做的好事 the "good thing" you've done...

    In Chinese, we don't have clauses led by "that/who/what/where/why/how..." We must often use 的 to make such connections.
    In an investigation, a new fact became known, which told against him.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Ah okay, so it's more like 'The house built by us' ? (lit. we build 的 house -> house built by us)
    That makes a lot of sense and fits in well with your examples, too.

    Thanks. I was expecting a big long explanation that would give me a headache but your reply was really great.
  4. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Your dictionary, like many others, is correct in saying that de is used after an attribute, but that is only part of the story. There is an economical and yet comprehensive way to understand the problem. I would say:
    De is used after a word, phrase, clause, etc. that modifies the noun that follows it:

    [我们][房子] (Our house)
    [我们建][房子] (The house we built)
    [漂亮][房子] ((A) beautiful house)
    [我们的漂亮][房子] (Our beautiful house)
    [我们建的漂亮][房子] (The beautiful house we built)
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    :) Excellent.

    The repeated use of de in those bottom phrases will take a bit of time to sink in properly but I understand the logic, I think!
  6. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    That is the cyclic application of the rule, which I'm sure you'll soon get used to. To help you with it, I'll analyse the phrases (in a more precise manner) for you:

    我们的漂亮的房子 => [我们][漂亮的房子]
    ( [我们]= modifier; [漂亮的房子]= modified NP )
    You can now further analyse the modified NP [漂亮的房子] as comprising [漂亮][房子].

    [我们建的漂亮的房子] => [我们建][漂亮的房子]
    [漂亮的房子] => [漂亮][房子]
  7. viajero_canjeado Senior Member

    English - Southeastern USA
    Don't think anyone pointed this out already, but 房 is pronounced in the second tone, not the first. :)

    I think of the 的 in 我們建的房子 as roughly equivalent to the relative pronoun "that": the house that we built.

    Other examples:
    他拍的照片 = The pictures [that] he took
    我媽煮的飯 = The food [that] my mom cooks, my mom's food

    That should give you a rough idea how to use 的 in this sense.

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