What’s the Deal with 的

Read this sentence aloud:

wǒ dài wǒ de tài tɑi hé wǒ de xiǎo hái ér qù wǒ de pénɡ you de jiā chī tā zuò de fàn

Does this sentence read funny? Does it sound funny when read out loud?

Try it again:

wǒ dài wǒ de tài tɑi hé wǒ de xiǎo hái ér qù wǒ de pénɡ you de jiā chī tā zuò de fàn

What’s 的 problem?
Herein lies the problem: too many ‘s!!! Grammatically there’s no problem with this sentence, but it’s not smooth. Locals will look at you funny if you talk like this.

But what’s the meaning of 的 anyway?
的 is called a “particle” – a word that doesn’t have a specific definition but changes the relationship between the parts of a sentence.

For example: 我的太太

Between 我 (me) and 太太 (wife), we see 的, which, in this case turns

我 (me)
into 我的 (mine).

Because the particle “的” is present, 太太 has become mine (我的). If only grammar reflected real life…sigh.

So 的 can demonstrate possessiveness (Good thing grammar doesn’t always reflect real life), as it does in every case in the sentence above. But in spoken language, locals don’t use so many 的s. It sounds awkward.

So when do you use 的 and when do you NOT use 的?


It’s pretty simple. When you have a personal pronoun such as I, my, he, she, they (我, 他, 她,他们), and you want to show possession of something, you can leave off 的.


However, you CANNOT leave off 的 when:

To show possession between a noun and another noun.

For example, 王老师的学生 (Miss Wong’s student). In this case you see that acts like “‘s“, a possessive.

If you leave off 的, you get

What’s that mean? Miss Wong student? Does it mean Miss Wong is a student? But she’s a teacher.

is as different as
Miss Wong’s student
Miss Wong student

So in this case, 的 cannot be left out. A and a ‘s makes all the difference. Here’s another more specific case:

的 Cannot be left out when the two nouns in the sentence cannot have a relationship with each other, i.e. a human and an inanimate object. See the difference:

The President’s dumplings
President dumplings

Superman’s thermal underwear
Superman thermal underwear

Britney’s monkey
Britney monkey

Hope this helps! If something’s unclear or you have some other questions about Mandarin, let us know in the comments.