I. What is the ... construction and when is it used?


The ‘shì ... de’ construction refers to a grammatical structure which focuses on when, where or how an action took place. It is used to seek or provide information about the time, place, manner, agent, or target of the action. For example, if the fact is that Xiǎomíng went to Beijing, and the information to be sought is when, with whom and by what means of transportation that he went to Beijing, the questions and answers would be:


       Questions Seeking Information

                  Questions Seeking Clarification


When did Xiaoming go to Beijing?

Xiǎomíng shì shénme shíhou Běijīng de?



Did Xiaoming go to Beijing yesterday? (last year? etc.)

Xiǎomíng shì zuótiān Běijīng de ma?



With whom did Xiaoming go to Beijing?

Xiǎomíng shì gēn shéi Běijīng de?



Did Xiaoming go to Beijing alone? (with his mom? etc.)

Xiǎomíng shì rén Běijīng de ma?



How did Xiaoming go to Beijing?

Xiǎomíng shì zěnme Běijīng de?



Did Xiaoming fly to Beijing? (go by bus? /train? etc.)

Xiǎomíng shì zuò fēijī Běijīng de ma?




The answers to these questions would be:





He went to Beijing yesterday.

shì zuótiān Běijīng de.



He went to Beijing with his father.

shì gēn fùqin Běijīng de.



He drove to Beijing.

shì kāi chē Běijīng de.



The ‘shì ... de’ construction does not deal with the completion, duration and frequency of an action or the quantity of the object. It focuses on the circumstances around the fact, not on the fact itself.