The 是…的 (shì…de) construction in Chinese grammar (2022)

  • 2400 words (~ 36 minutes)

是…的 (shì…de) is a very common and important structure in Mandarin Chinesegrammar. It's essential for any student of Chinese to learn and be familiarwith, and comes up constantly in written and spoken Chinese.

There are two key things to note about the 是…的 construction:

  • It's used to emphasize a detail in a sentence.
  • 是…的 sentences are usually about past events.

Most beginner's Chinese textbooks and courses place a lot of emphasis on the是…的 construction because it's so common. This is good as everyone should learnit.

As with all grammar, though, remember not to get lost in memorising ‘rules’ andset structures. The more Chinese you read and listen to, and the more youpractice, the more natural these structures will become. That's always the bestway to learn.

The 是…的 (shì…de) structure

As you can see in the name of this structure, something goes in between 是 and的! Whatever goes in between those two words is the thing that will beemphasized or focused on in the sentence. So in the most basic way, the是…的 structure is simply this:

是 [thing to be emphasized] 的

But how do you use that in a sentence? The full structure is as follows(pay most attention to where 是 and 的 are):

[subject] 是 [thing to be emphasized] [verb] 的

As you can see, we actually get the verb in between 是 and 的 as well as thething we want to emphasize. The thing we emphasize is some detail about theaction of the verb. This detail is often described as being time, manner orplace, but really it can be anything.

Let's have a look at some initial example sentences for this structure:

你是什么时候来的?

Nǐ shì shénme shíhou lái de?

When did you get here?

她是坐火车去上海的。

Tā shì zuò huǒchē qù shànghǎi de.

She went to Shanghai by train.

他是在德国长大的。

Tā shì zài déguó zhǎng dà de.

He grew up in Germany.

Notice how there is some detail about the action of the verb included in the是…的 structure. Also notice how these sentences are all about thingsin the past.

An equivalent structure in English might be “it was … that”. So the abovesentences could also be translated as:

  • “When was it that you got here?”
  • “It was by train that she went to Shanghai.”
  • “It was in Germany that he grew up.”

Notice how those sentences draw attention to particular details about the actionof the verb. That structure is a little bit unusual in English, though, whereas是…的 is super common and normal in Chinese.

How 是…的 is used

As mentioned above, the 是…的 construction is used togive focus to a specific detail in a sentence (as well as indicating that it'sabout the past). Whatever is placed right after 是 is emphasized.

The detail that gets emphasized is often described as being about the time,manner or place of the verb. Whilst the detail might actually be anything,these make nice categories to focus on. Let's look at each one in turn.

Emphasizing time with 是…的

You can use 是…的 to emphasize the time that the action took place. Have alook at some example sentences:

他们是昨天来的。

Tāmen shì zuótiān lái de.

They got here yesterday.
⇒ It was yesterday that they got here.

我们是去年搬的家。

Wǒmen shì qùnián bān de jiā .

We moved house last year.
⇒ It was last year that we moved house.

她是1996年毕业的。

Tā shì yījiǔjiǔliù nián bìyè de.

She graduated in 1996.
⇒ It was in 1996 that she graduated.

Notice how the time the action took place comes immediately after 是. That's howthe 是…的 construction works: you put the thing you want to emphasize after 是,then the verb, then finish it with 的.

English translations that emphasize the detail more heavily have been givenunderneath. Remember, though, that the 是…的 structure in Chinese is much morenatural and commonly used than that English structure might suggest.

(Video) Decode the usage of the 是……的 (shi...de) pattern in Chinese for emphasis - Chinese Grammar Simplified

Notice the slightly different word order, with 的 before the object? Don'tworry, we'll explain that below! We've just introduced it here to help you getused to it from the start.

Emphasizing manner with 是…的

You can also use 是…的 to emphasize the manner of an action, i.e. how it wasdone. Again, you put the way the action was done right after 是 to emphasize it.Have a look at some examples:

她是跟她朋友一起去旅行的。

Tā shì gēn tā péngyǒu yīqǐ qù lǚxíng de.

She went travelling with her friend.
⇒ It was with her friend that she went travelling.

我们是坐飞机去韩国的。

Wǒmen shì zuò fēijī qù Hánguó de.

We went to Korea by plane.
⇒ It was by plane that we went to Korea.

我是用刀切蛋糕的。

Wǒ shì yòng dāo qiē dàngāo de.

I cut the cake with a knife.
⇒ It was with a knife that I cut the cake.

她是偷偷去的。

Tā shì tōutōu qù de.

She went secretly.
⇒ It was secretly that she went.

There are endless ways you could use 是…的 to emphasize the manner in which anaction was done. Again, note that all of the events described took place in thepast.

Emphasizing place with 是…的

The final category of things you can emphasize with 是…的 is place - where theaction happened. As you might have guessed, you put the place right after 是 toemphasize it. Some examples:

我是在日本上的中学。

Wǒ shì zài rìběn shàng de zhōngxué .

I went to middle school in Japan.
⇒ It was in Japan that I went to middle school.

我是在报纸看到的。

Wǒ shì zài bàozhǐ kàn dào de.

I saw it in the newspaper.
⇒ It was in the newspaper that I saw it.

Hopefully that has given you a general idea of what the 是…的 structure is andhow it's used. Read on for more usage scenarios and details!

That pesky alternate word order is back again! We've put it in a couple oftimes here to make you aware of it before we explain it in more detail below.

Emphasizing other details with 是…的

Besides time, manner and place, there are all sorts of other things you can talkabout with 是…的. Here are a few examples:

我是来学中文的。

Wǒ shì lái xué Zhōngwén de.

I've come to study Chinese.

那台电脑是三千块买的。

(Video) Learn Chinese Grammar: 是...的 (shì de)

Nà tái diànnǎo shì sānqiān kuài mǎi de.

That computer cost 3000 kuai.

这个项链是我奶奶送给我的。

Zhège xiàngliàn shì wǒ nǎinai sòng gěi wǒ de.

This necklace was given to me by my grandma.

这个故事是老张给我讲的。

Zhège gùshì shì Lǎo Zhāng gěi wǒ jiǎng de.

Lao Zhang told me this story.

Hopefully you can now see how versatile and useful the 是…的 construction is.

Negating 是…的

Negating 是…的 is super easy: just put 不 in front of 是 and that's it! You canuse this to emphasize what was not true about an action. Some examples:

我不是坐飞机去香港的。

Wǒ bùshì zuò fēijī qù xiānggǎng de.

I didn't go to Hong Kong by plane.
⇒ It wasn't by plane that I went to Hong Kong.

这件事情不是你告诉我的。

Zhè jiàn shìqíng bùshì nǐ gàosu wǒ de.

You didn't tell me about this.
⇒ It wasn't you who told me about this.

我不是在越南学的越南语。

Wǒ bùshì zài Yuènán xué Yuènányǔ de.

I didn't learn Vietnamese in Vietnam.
⇒ It wasn't in Vietnam that I learnt Vietnamese.

As you can see, negating 是…的 is very straightforward, and now you've got awhole new set of options in your tool kit!

That's the third time you've seen the alternate word order, with the objectafter 的. We'll explain it soon, we promise!

Asking questions with 是…的

A very common use of 是…的 is to ask questions. You can form question sentencesusing 是…的 just as you would normally form questions in Chinese. Let's have alook at a few ways.

是…的 with 吗

The simplest way to ask questions is probably with a tag word (akaquestion particle) like 吗. You just place this on the end of the sentence asnormal to turn it into a yes/no question:

他是上个学期来的吗?

Tā shì shàng gè xuéqí lái de ma?

Did he get here last semester?
⇒ Was it last semester that he got here?

她是跟她爸爸去杭州的吗?

Tā shì gēn tā bàba qù hángzhōu de ma?

Did she got to Hangzhou with her dad?
⇒ Was it with her dad that she went to Hangzhou?

你是在公园里看到他的吗?

Nǐ shì zài gōngyuán lǐ kàn dào tā de ma?

Did you see him in the park?
⇒ Was in it in the park that you saw him?

As you can see, it's very easy to make 是…的 sentences into question by simplyadding 吗 at the end. This is a good way to ask questions about particulardetails of an action, as you can see in the examples.

(Video) Chinese Grammar: 是....的 Construction

是…的 in positive-negative questions

The next way you can form questions with 是…的 is to use positive-negativequestions. These are the questions where you say the verb then immediately giveits negated form. As you might expect, these are formed as 是不是 for 是…的sentences. Some examples:

你是不是刚到的?

Nǐ shì bùshì gāng dào de?

Did you just get here?
⇒ Was it just now that you got here?

他是不是用铅笔写的?

Tā shì bùshì yòng qiānbǐ xiě de?

Did he write it with a pencil?
⇒ Was it with a pencil that he wrote it?

你们是不是在首尔认识的?

Nǐmen shì bùshì zài Shǒu'ěr rènshi de?

Did you meet in Seoul?
⇒ Was it in Seoul that you met?

That's all there is to it! Forming positive-negative questions with 是…的 isquite easy to get used to.

是…的 with question words

Another way you can form questions with 是…的 is to use question words. As youmight know already, Chinese question words tend to be quite straightforward. Youjust put them in the place of the thing you want to know in the sentence, andthat's it. You don't need to re-order the sentence or anything like that.

Some example sentences for 是…的 with question words:

她是什么时候去蒙古的?

Tā shì shénme shíhou qù ménggǔ de?

When did she go to Mongolia?
⇒ When was it that she went to Mongolia?

这个菜是怎么做的?

Zhège cài shì zěnme zuò de?

How is this dish made?
⇒ What is it that this dish is made with?

你们是在哪里认识的?

Nǐmen shì zài nǎlǐ rènshi de?

Where did you meet?
⇒ Where was it that you met?

这件事是谁告诉你的?

Zhè jiàn shì shì shuí gàosu nǐ de?

Who told you about this?
⇒ Who was it that told you about this?

Again, once you know the structure, it's quite easy to combine it with otherthings you know. You'll soon find that your Chinese “tool kit” is full ofoptions in this way.

The object often comes after 的 in 是…的

Here's that explanation we kept promising of those sentences where theobject comes after 的!

When the 是…的 construction is used, the object very often comes after 的,rather than before it as shown in the examples above. This is very common withthe 是…的 construction for most objects (pretty much everything except people).

This isn't a huge change, but it's another thing you've got to take note of with是…的. Have a look at some example sentences to see how this works:

我是上个月来的北京。

Wǒ shì shàngge yuè lái de Běijīng.

I came to Beijing last month.

他是用钢笔写的信。

Tā shì yòng gāngbǐ xiě de xìn.

He wrote the letter with a fountain pen.

(Video) HSK2 CHINESE GRAMMAR 了(le) VS. 是(shi)...的(de)📚🤓

我是在食堂吃的饭。

Wǒ shì zài shítáng chī de fàn.

I ate in the canteen.

If you take away the object, you can see how these sentences work: 我是上个月来的still makes sense on its own. So all that's happening is that a completesentence (with 是…的) is having an object added to it.

The object can come after 的 if it's a place or a ‘thing’, but not if it's aperson. As usual, we'd say it's best not to try and memorise any rules aboutthis. Instead, read and listen to as much Chinese as possible, and keeppractising! Then you'll get a natural feel for it all.

Be careful when putting the object after 的!

If you're on the ball, you might have spotted a little danger with putting theobject after 的 in a 是…的 sentence. You could end up saying that the subjectis the object, rather than emphasizing something else in the sentence. Forexample:

我是昨天买的猪。( !)

Wǒ shì zuótiān mǎi de zhū.

"I am the pig that was bought yesterday."

That sentence could mean “I bought the pig yesterday”, but it could also bemisinterpreted. To make sure you say the right thing, it might be better tophrase such sentences like this:

我是昨天买猪的。

Wǒ shì zuótiān mǎi zhū de.

I bought the pig yesterday.

Even this version could also have another meaning though:

“I was the person who bought the pig yesterday.”

Just remember to be careful if you're putting the object after 的 in a 是…的sentence.

是 is often dropped from the 是…的 construction

One final thing to note about the 是…的 construction is that 是 is often leftout of it. That does make the name a bit silly, but 是…的 is the ‘full’structure.

Nothing else changes, you just say the same sentence but without 是. Someexamples:

我们在上海认识的。

Wǒmen zài shànghǎi rènshi de.

We met in Shanghai.

我在食堂吃的饭。

Wǒ zài shítáng chī de fàn.

I ate in the canteen.

我在报纸看到的。

Wǒ zài bàozhǐ kàn dào de.

I saw it in the newspaper.

Because of this, you could think of 的 on its own as being a way to talk aboutpast events. Just remember that it works as part of a 是…的, even if the 是 isinvisible!

Other names for the 是…的 construction

As it's so common, there are many different terms for the 是…的 construction.To help avoid any confusion, here's a list of some of them. These all mean thesame thing:

  • 是…的结构
  • (shì…de jiégòu)

  • 是 的 句
  • 是…的 sentence
  • 是…的 pattern
  • Shì…de construction
  • Shi de sentence

See also

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FAQs

What is the rule in constructing a Chinese sentence? ›

A simple sentence will usually include at least two parts, the subject, and predicate. A common sentence structure is in three parts: subject + predicate (verb) + object. Unlike English, most of the time in a simple Chinese sentence, the predicate is a verb, although sometimes it can be an adjective.

How do you use DE in Chinese grammar? ›

The use of the particle “de” is to modify another noun, verb, or adjective. For example, if Chinese people want to say “quietly,” they would say “安静地 (Ān jìng de).” Or, if they would want to say “Sara's house,” they would say “莎拉de房子.” There are three de particles.

What is the grammar structure of Chinese? ›

The basic word order is subject–verb–object (SVO), as in English. Otherwise, Chinese is chiefly a head-final language, meaning that modifiers precede the words that they modify. In a noun phrase, for example, the head noun comes last, and all modifiers, including relative clauses, come in front of it.

Is there any grammar in Chinese? ›

Chinese has a relatively uncomplicated grammar. Unlike French, German or English, Chinese has no verb conjugation (no need to memorize verb tenses!) and no noun declension (e.g., gender and number distinctions).

Is Chinese grammar easy? ›

Is Chinese Grammar Hard? Chinese grammar is generally pretty easy, but there are a few elements that are a little challenging. There are many different measurement words you use when numbering items.

How do you say grammar in Chinese? ›

grammar
  1. (= rules of language) 语(語)法 (yǔfǎ)
  2. (= use of rules) 语(語)法运(運)用 (yǔfǎ yùnyòng)

What does De means in Chinese? ›

De (/də/; Chinese: 德), also written as Te, is a key concept in Chinese philosophy, usually translated "inherent character; inner power; integrity" in Taoism, "moral character; virtue; morality" in Confucianism and other contexts, and "quality; virtue" (guna) or "merit; virtuous deeds" (punya) in Chinese Buddhism.

What is the meaning of Wo De? ›

mad, insane, possessed, furious, frantic, mentally deranged, of unsound mind, out of one's mind. rabid.

How do you pronounce de in Chinese? ›

how to use 的de(Chinese grammar)| Learn Mandarin Chinese with Yimin

How can I remember Chinese grammar? ›

Therefore, the absolute best way – really the only way – to learn Chinese grammar is to speak Chinese with Chinese people. Only when you've reached a certain level of mastery will grammar rules even make sense to you. So by all means read the grammar books; they are useful stepping stones.

Is Chinese easy to learn? ›

When it comes to the issue of grammatical complexity, Chinese is really one of the easiest languages there is to learn. Unlike most European languages, it does not feature complicated constructs like cases and genders. It also treats tenses in a very simplistic way.

Which language has no grammar? ›

Let's start with the reason that people say Chinese has “no grammar”. In many Western languages, such as Spanish, Russian, or French, there is a well-documented tradition of language academies, standardization, and the study of the grammar of a language.

How many tenses are in Chinese? ›

It is often said that Mandarin Chinese does not have any tenses. If "tenses" mean verb conjugation, this is true, since verbs in Chinese have an unchangeable form.

Which language has easiest grammar? ›

Languages with Simple Grammar Rules
  1. 1) Esperanto. It is the widely-spoken artificial language in the world. ...
  2. 2) Mandarin Chinese. You did not see this one coming, right? ...
  3. 3) Malay. ...
  4. 4) Afrikaans. ...
  5. 5) French. ...
  6. 6) Haitian Creole. ...
  7. 7) Tagalog. ...
  8. 8) Spanish.

How do you rearrange Chinese sentences? ›

What is the Correct Word Order of a Chinese Sentence? - YouTube

What makes Chinese sentence structure complicated? ›

Mandarin Chinese sentence structure is quite different than English or other European languages. Since the word order doesn't match, sentences which are translated word-for-word to Mandarin will be difficult to understand. You must learn to think in Mandarin Chinese when speaking the language.

What is the structure of a Chinese character? ›

The pattern of Chinese character structures can be roughly categorized into 10 types (single-radical, left-right, up-down, up-right, left-down, up-left-down, left-up- right, left-down-right, and enclosure), see Fig. 4.

What is the difference between basic Chinese structures to English sentence? ›

Mandarin sentence structure is topic-prominent. One of biggest differences between English and Mandarin sentence structure is that Mandarin is topic-prominent, whereas English is subject-prominent. This sounds complicated but is actually fairly straightforward.

The three de. particles are 的, 地 and 得 and each has very different uses.. Some full examples sentences of the potential complement:. We won't go into the potential complement in more detail here, as this is just a. summary of Chinese de particles.. This complement appears similar to the potential complement. described above, but it's not the same.. Again, we won't go into too much detail about the degree complement here, as. this is just a summary of Chinese de particles.. Just so you know, the character 得 isn't just a particle.. 的 is marks possession 地 marks adverbs 得 appears in verbal complements the potential complement the degree complement. 长 (zhǎng) vs 长得 (zhǎngde) in Chinese grammar B1 Chinese grammar de particles summary: 的, 地 and 得 B1

In the following sentence, for example,. You can draw attention to pretty much any information in the sentence using 是 … 的.. 我是不是五月出生的?. Wǒ shì bù shì wǔ yuè chūshēng de?. Normally, 的 is placed at the end of the sentence in a 是 … 的 construction, and this is fine most of the time.. The only time this is necessary is when the 是 … 的 construction would result in a sentence with another meaning to the one intended.. The sentence above is not ‘a 是 … 的 construction’ as described in this article.. The 是 … 的 construction emphasises additional information about an action rather than just modifying things.. 是 is placed before the part of the sentence you want to emphasise.. 的 is nearly always placed at the end of the sentence.

是 Shi4 … 的 de5 structure is an useful grammatical usage which can be used to gather or describe more information about an event that already happened in the past.. de5 structure, however, de5 can’t be omitted.. All you need to do is just to replace the answer (去年) to the question phrase (什么时候) and the main sentence structure is the same.. 的 de5 structure, you only need to place 不bu2 in front of 是 shi4, and remember, the 不是 bu2 shi4 can’t be omitted.. Form question with 是 shi4 ….的 de5 structure: all you need to do is to add 是不 shi4 bu2 in front of the original 是 shi4.

For all my English knowleadge, I don't understand this sentence:. There are some other faults in the translation from Chinese to English, and some can't add English dummy "It.." because they are subordinate clauses like this: "是我在公園裡找到你的狗的.". If you use "了le" then don't use "是shi...的de".. It is now a verb "是shi -to be".. Your dog is (the thing that) I found in the park.. Still a verb nevertheless), and not part of a "是shi...的de" construction.. I add this 的 's at the end to make "找到的 zhao3 dao4 de5 -the which that was found".. "Your dog is (the thing that) I found in the park.. Like the 1st sentence, this sentence have nothing to do with the "是shi...的de" construction.. Rather the construction is not used at all, and the 是shi and 的de have other functions in the sentence.. See very simple, don't think too much.. I apologise that my explanation for a simple thing is bulky...

Videos

1. Chinese Grammar [是…的]
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2. Are you making this common mistake with 是……的? - Chinese Gone Wrong #1
(Chinese Zero to Hero)
3. 【HSK3 Intermediate Chinese】When Did You Get Home? 是...的 Shì...De (Part 1)
(PeggyTeachesChinese)
4. HSK 1 Lesson 15 Grammar 1 是...的 [shì...de] structure for emphasis
(Simple Chinese)
5. 是-的 construction
(Maan Broadstock)
6. Chinese grammar: The 得de construction
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