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Grammar Talk: The use of 是...的 (shì...de) Sentence Structure

December 12, 2018

In our ‘Chinese Beginner 1 course(more details Here), we have learned the grammar structure ‘是...的 (shì...de)’, yet in this article, we’re going to elaborate more of its application.

 

The ‘是...的 (shì...de)’ combination has the function of emphasising certain information, while it’s similar to English ‘It is (that)...’, therefore it’s often used to indicate a fact or past incidents, which have been confirmed to have happened. To make it clearer, below is a short summary of the use of the structure.

 

 

 ‘Main topic 是shì…information emphasized...的de’

  • Emphasize the content in between ‘是shì’ and ‘的de’

  • ‘是shì’ will always be put right before the information to be emphasized

  • ‘的de’ will always be at the end of sentence

  • Equivalent to ‘it is (that)...’

  • Often used to indicate a fact or past incidents

  • Main topic can be anything the sentence mainly is talking about, e.g. subject, objects, etc.

 

Example:

 

我是五年前认识丽丽的。

wǒ shì wǔ nián qián rènsh Lìli de

It’s 5 years ago that I knew Lily.

 

你昨天是怎么来机场的?

nǐ zuótiān shì zěnme lái jīchǎng de

It’s by what method you came to the airport yesterday?

 

我是在美国念大学的。

wǒ shì zài Měiguó niàn dàxué de

It’s in the U.S. that I studied university.

 

这块手表是300快买的。

zhè kuài shǒubiǎo shì sān bǎi kuài mǎi de

It’s at 300 RMB that this watch is bought at.

 

这些苹果是在哪里买的?

zhèxiē píngguǒ shì zài nǎli mǎi de

It’s at what place these apples are bought?

 

菜是妈妈做的。

cài shì māma zuò de

It’s mum that made the dish.

 

‘Main topic…information emphasized...的de’

Yet, there’s some additional information for you, which ‘是shì’ from the structure ‘main topic 是shì…information emphasized...的de’, can actually be omitted, without distorting the sentence’s meaning.

 

Example:

 

我和大山(是)昨天一起去的。

wǒ hé Dàshān ( shì ) zuótiān yìqǐ qù de

It’s yesterday that me and Dashan went together.

 

这杯红茶(是)我特意买给你的。

zhè bēi hóngchá ( shì ) wǒ tèyì mǎi gěi nǐ de

I specially bought this red tea for you.

 

However, when the the sentences include too much content, without it ‘是shì’ could make it unclear which is the ‘main topic’ and which is the ‘information’. Therefore, in these situation ‘是shì’ is encouraged to be used to divide clearly between the ‘main topic’ and ‘information’

 

Example:

 

我和小红上周在咖啡咖厅见面的。

wǒ hé Xiǎohóng shàng zhōu zài kāfēitīng jiànmiàn de

Me and Xiaohong met in a cafe last week.

 

The above example is not clear about which information is emphasized, as it could mean any of the below:

 

和小红上周在咖啡天见面的。

shì hé Xiǎohóng shàng zhōu zài kāfēitīng jiànmiàn de

It’s Xiaohong that I met last week in a cafe.

 

我和小红上周在咖啡天见面的。

wǒ hé Xiǎohóng shì shàng zhōu zài kāfēitīng jiànmiàn de

It’s last week that me and Xiaohong met in a cafe.

 

我和小红上周在咖啡天见面的。

wǒ hé xiǎo hóng shàng zhōu shì zài kā fēi tiān jiàn miàn dí 。

It’s at a cafe that me and Xiaohong met last week.

 

‘Main topic 不是búshì…information emphasized...的de’

Lastly, to express negative form for the sentence structure ‘main topic 是shì…information emphasized...的de’, simply put ‘不bù’ before ‘是shì’, to make it ‘不是búshì’.

 

Example:

 

我们昨天不是坐地铁回公司的。

wǒmen zuótiān bú shì zuò dìtiě huí gōngsī de

It’s not by taking the tube that we came to office yesterday.

 

这个礼物不是送给老师的。

zhè ge lǐwù bú shì sòng gěi lǎoshī de

This gift is not for the teacher.

 

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