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Mandarin Learning Tips Blog
n Monday, we posted an article on how to write a formal letter. Today, we’re going down a more colloquial route.
When I speak to people in English, I tend to use a lot of filler words such as “Um...” and “Like...” while I gather my thoughts. Perhaps I’m not quite as eloquent as most people.
For us, we say “那个” (nèi ge) to fill a pause. It’s the equivalent to “Um, uh, er, that is, that one,” etc.
The problem with “那个” (pronounced “nay-ge” or “nah-ge”) as a filler word is that it sounds a little similar the N-word in English. The famous comedian, Russell Peters, pointed this out in one of his standup shows. It is unfortunate that such a common word in the Chinese language can be so misunderstood in English.
I’ve even had friends approach me and ask me why Chinese people were so obsessed with saying the “N-word.” No, we’re not trying to insult anyone, and no, we are not trying to emulate certain rap lyrics. We are simply filling an empty pause as we gather our thoughts.
A while ago, we gave you a post explaining the three “ta"s (him, her, it) of Chinese. Today, we’re going to explain another holy trinity in Chinese grammar: the three “de” particles of Chinese.
These particles are some of the hardest components of Chinese grammar. Even native speakers often mix them up.
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. They are all pronounced “de” with the neutral tone when used as a particle, which is why people can easily confuse them with one another. Similar to how “their, they’re, and there” are some of the most common typos in the English language, “的," "得," and "地” are also some of the most common grammar mistakes in Chinese.
• 的 (de) for modifying nouns
• 得 (de), for modifying verbs
• 地 (de), for modifying adjectives (into adverbs)
Preface: This article is for beginners with no Chinese-speaking skills whatsoever. For those of you who already speak intermediate Chinese, go read one of our other articles. Like this one.
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