Chinese Grammar Bank


的 can be used to talk about possession, to attach adjectives to nouns, and so much more! 

While you can’t learn all of the uses of 的 in one sitting, you can start learning the different uses, one by one. They aren’t complicated!  

By the end of this article you’ll know exactly how to use  in Mandarin Chinese.


(This is for grammar nerds. If you don’t like grammar, skip directly to the next section!)

A word that Chinese students frequently come across with is the word “particle.”  For example, 的(de) is a “possessive particle.” 

But what does particle even mean?

In the world of Chinese grammar, a particle is simply a word that has a grammatical meaning. 

It is simply another part of speech, for words that are not easily classified into other parts of speech like verbs, nouns, or adjectives.

In the case of 的 (de), it is a grammar particle that has many functions. 

👉 The grammatical function of 的 (de) that will be discussed today is most closely comparable to the function of the ‘s in English. 

For example, in the sentence “This is Sarah’s coat” the ‘s after Sarah indicates that the coat belongs to Sarah.

的 (de), when it is functioning as a possessive particle, does the same thing, it indicates possession.

DID YOU KNOW – There are 3 different “de” particles. Check out our lesson about 的, 得, 地 here [HSK 2].


The possessive 的 (de) helps us answer the question “Whose is this?” 

For example, imagine your Chinese professor finds a phone on the ground and asks the class “Whose phone is this?” 

You can respond “我的 (wǒde)! Mine!” Or, more completely “我的手机 (wǒde shǒujī)!  My phone!”


Noun / Pronoun + 的 + Noun

我的wǒ de my, mine
你的nǐ deyours, your
他的tā dehis/hers
lǎoshī de cídiǎn


Teacher’s dictionary
zhèshì wǒde shǒujī


This is my phone
wǒde guójiā hěndà


My country is very big


Whether talking about a book or a Examples of 的 to describe interpersonal relationships:

de lǎoshī


My teacher
de péngyou


His friend
de línjū


Your neighbour


When there is a very close relationship, you do not use 的。

The possessive particle 的 is not used when you are talking about family members, significant others, or important organizations that you belong to like school or work.

You do NOT use 的 with:

  1. Family
  2. Boyfriend or girlfriend
  3. School or work institutions
nǐ gēge hěn shuài


Your brother is very handsome
wǒ nǎinai hěn lǎo


My grandma is very old
wǒ xuéxiào hěn yǒumíng


My school is very famous
tā nánpéngyou hěn cōngming


Her boyfriend is very smart

NOTE || No matter how attached you may feel to your phone, this exception for close relationships will never apply to your phone or any other object. “My phone” will always be 我的手机 (wǒde shǒujī).   

👉 IN SHORT || Don’t use Possessive 的 (de) when talking about family, significant others, or your work or school.

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What is 的?

的 (de), is a grammar particle that has many functions.

The first function you need to learn, and one of the most important is 的 as a possessive particle.

What are the 3 pronunciations of 的?

If you look in your dictionary, you may find that 的 can be pronounced de, dì or dī. 

But usually, 的 is pronounced de.

How to use 的?

As a possessive form, 的 (de) helps us answer the question “Whose is this?” 


这是我的手机 (zhèshì wǒde shǒujī) = This is my phone我的老师 (wǒde lǎoshī) My teacher

However, you cannot use 的 for the following: Family, Boyfriend or girlfriend, School or work institutions.

的 seems hard. Should I stress about this?

If your test is tomorrow and your teacher has questions about proper and improper uses of 的 on the test, then you should probably memorize this ASAP.

That being said, if you are studying in China or learning on your own, the good news is that this grammar rule will not make or break your Chinese ability. 

If you mess up and use 的 (de) when talking about your dad or your school, your Chinese-speaking friends will still understand you. 

With continued practice, you will find it easier and easier to leave out the 的 (de) when talking about close relationships.  

What are the two other “de”?

得 is used for complements.

地 turns an adjective into an adverb.

You can learn more about them in this lesson.

Is the Chinese grammar difficult to learn?

As for any new language, the Chinese grammar might seem a bit confusing at first, but once you get into it you’ll see it is actually very logical!

After learning the basic rules of Chinese grammar, you’ll be able to express yourself easily and pick up more complex grammar points along the way.

Also check out our Chinese Grammar Bank for lessons of all levels.