Chinese Grammar: "是...的" construction
You’ve learned to ask for information and to give information; now it’s time to learn how to ask about something in the detail when you really want to know when in time, where, or how something in particular occurred. The Chinese have a specific construction for that, which is very commonly used: 是...的.
Place emphasis on a specific information
It is often used to obtain explanations or to give information on:
Structure in a sentence
This pattern is close to the structure:
“the situation is that...”, in English.
的 isn’t always placed immediately at the end of the sentence. It can also be placed in front of the object to clarify on which information the emphasis is being placed.
Let's take the sentence "He learned Chinese in China" again. What happens if we move 的 to the end of the sentence? It looks like this:
But in this sentence, it’s not very clear which element is being emphasized. Is it the fact he's learned Chinese or that it was in China? Let's look at the initial sentence again:
Since we're looking to emphasize the information "in China", putting 的 right behind the information "he studied in China" makes the emphasis a lot clearer, as you can see.
Used in a question, this pattern is often used to ask for precise information. Placing emphasis on an element in a question is simple: just frame the part of the question you want to draw attention to with this structure.
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