When I fall in love with a song in my target language, I put it on repeat. While I might not be able to pick up all the words from that song, a word or two is guaranteed (hopefully, since the song is on for at least several hours). With the song in this article, we are going to take a more active approach. We are going to learn how 的 is used in the song Bubble by GEM. So the next time you hear or read about 的, you will have moments like, “Oh I learned that from the song Bubble!”
的 is one of the most frequently used characters in Chinese. It has multiple functions. In this article, we are going to learn about the different functions of de. Then I have a small game for you at the end of the article! Please note that there are three important de in Chinese Mandarin. They are 的、得、地. We are going to look at the 的 with the 白 radical.
Function 1: Possession
When 的 is used to indicate possession, you can think of it as the English ’s (apostrophe s) as in “Mike’s bike.”
Possession wouldn’t be completed without an object, right? The basic structure is:
noun + 的 + noun
Function 2: Connecting Particle
Besides the previous structure using 的, we can even use an adjective. When it is used as a connecting particle to connect the adjective to the noun, I like to explain it as attributing the property to whatever object that follows.
adj + 的 + noun
可爱 by itself does mean “cute” or “lovely” already. However, in order to attach the quality to an object, we need to use 的 to make the connection. So we have 可爱的猫 instead of just 可爱猫.
Most of my students won’t hesitate when I ask whether they like 可爱的猫, but they do hesitate when I ask whether they like 蓝色的猫. Ok, I admit this is not realistic. But there are definitely two blue cats that I am aware of. One is 《多拉A梦》的机器猫 and another one is 《妖精的尾巴》 的哈比.
See how 的 comes into usage already?
Function 3: Let’s Break (them) Up
In function 2, 的 allows us to apply the adjective to the following object. It allows us to use the adjective. With that concept in mind, I want you to keep the 的 with the adjective as we break them up.
Original format: adj + 的 + noun
New format: adj 的 + noun
Keeping the (adj 的) as one component, we are going to use it in the sentence “My cat is blue.”
Notice the 的 that follows the attribute.
One thing that always makes me smile is seeing my students build long sentences by using two simple concepts that they have learned. With just the basic 【noun + 的 + noun】 structure, we can keep on expanding the “noun” section. One of the expansions that is done in 《泡沫》(pàomò, Bubble) is the addition of a preposition.
Prepositions are like “property” to objects in Chinese Mandarin. So when we use a preposition, we just add the term after the object.
床 is bed, 下 is down/under. So 床下 is “under the bed” (literally, “bed’s below”).
Up and Down
If you have been following my articles, you will notice how much I love characters! I have written several articles on characters. Two of my favorite characters are 上 and 下.
I love this pair because if you flip 上, you will get 下 (with the straight line slightly tilted). Since 上 is a position word just like 下, the structure is exactly the same.
Simply replace 下 with 上, and you will get the following:
Once we have the positions all set, we can start adding objects. The structure is as follows:
[object A] + [position] + 的 + [object B]
With just this portion, we can’t form a complete sentence. Let’s apply Function 2.
Great! Now you have enough information to play a mini search game with the lyrics! Can you spot all the 的 in GEM’s 泡沫？What about the meanings?
You can listen to the song here.
The lyrics are in the video description. For the fully translated lyrics, you can see them by clicking on the CC button on YouTube when you are watching the music video.
Here are some examples from the song:
By taking an active approach with songs, we can learn a lot about a language. Here with 泡沫 by GEM, we learned one of the most frequently used characters in Chinese: 的. Next time when you listen to 泡沫 by GEM, you will not only be able to recognize the sound de, but you will also know how it is used. Meanwhile, don’t forget to enjoy the song!