II. The structure of the shì ... de construction

 

The ‘shì ... de’ construction is formed by placing shìright before the word or phrase the speaker intends to emphasize and placing deeither at the end of the sentence or before the object depending on the situation.

 

The placement of shì

 

Shìis placed right before the element indicating the information to be clarified. Shìtakes a word or phrase which provides any of the following information about the action: time, place, manner, agent or target. The following examples show how different placements of shìin the same sentence change its focus.

 

A. Focusing on Time

 

shì zuótiān gēn kāi chē Shànghǎi de.  

 

昨天跟他开车去上海的。

 

I drove to Shanghai with him yesterday. /It was yesterday that I drove to Shanghai with him.

 

 

B. Focusing on Company

 

zuótiān shì gēn kāi chē Shànghǎi de.  

 

昨天跟他开车去上海的。

 

I drove to Shanghai with him yesterday. /It was with him that I drove to Shanghai yesterday.

 

 

C. Focusing on Conveyance

 

zuótiān gēn shì kāi chē Shànghǎi de.  

 

昨天跟他开车去上海的。

 

I drove to Shanghai with him yesterday.

 

 

The placement of de

 

A. If the verb does not take an object, place de at the end of the sentence.

 

A 1.   shì zuótiān zǒu de. 

他是昨天走的。

He left yesterday. /It was yesterday that he left.

 

A 2.   shì zuò huǒchē huílái de

我是坐火车回来的。

I came back by train. /It was by train that I came back.

The verb huí takes a directional complement lái.

 

B. If the verb takes an object and the object is a personal pronoun, place de at the end of the sentence.

 

B 1.   shì zài Fǎguó rènshi de. 

我是在法国认识她的。

I met her in France. /It was in France that I met her.

 

B 2.   shì zài huí shàng pīpíng de. 

他是在会上批评我的。

He criticized me in the meeting. /It was in the meeting that he criticized me.

 

C. If the verb takes an object, which is a noun denoting place, put deeither before the object or at the end of the sentence.

 

C 1.   shì zuò huǒchē lái Běijīng de. 

我是坐火车来北京的。

I came to Beijing by train. /It was by train that I came to Beijing.

 

C 2.   shì zuò huǒchē lái de Běijīng. 

我是坐火车来的北京。

I came to Beijing by train. /It was by train that I came to Beijing. 

 

D. If the verb takes a noun as the object and the noun does not denote place, put de before the object.

 

D 1.   shì zài diànyǐngyuàn qiántou mài de piào. 

我是在电影院前头卖的票。

I sold the ticket in front of the cinema. /It was in front of the cinema that I sold the ticket.

 

D 2.   shì gēn yíkuàir kàn de diànyǐng. 

他是跟我一块儿看的电影。

He saw the movie with me. /It was with me that he saw the movie.

Note that de may not be placed after the object in this case because it may change the meaning of the sentence. Compare Sentence D 3 with D 1.

 

D 3.   shì zài diànyǐngyuàn qiántou mài piào de

我是在电影院前头卖票的。

I sell tickets in front of the cinema. /I am a ticket-seller in front of the cinema.

Some ‘verb+object’ combos can be nominalized by attaching de to form informal names of professions, such as màiyú de  卖鱼的fish-seller, chànggē de 唱歌的singer, zhàoxiàng de 照相的photographer, jiāoshū de 教书的teacher, etc.

 

E. If the verb takes a directional complement and an object,  deis placed at the end of the sentence.

 

E 1.    Wáng tàitai shì qiánnián bāndào Shànghǎi de. 

王太太是前年搬到上海去的。

It was the year before last that Mrs. Wang moved to Shanghai.

 

E 2.    shì zuótiān lái diànhuà de. 

          他是昨天打来电话的。

He called yesterday. /It was yesterday that he called. (Call was made to the speaker.)

 

Note that in the following sentence the deis placed before the object, which does not denote a place. Such a placement breaks the rule and has changed the element between shì and de into an attribute modifying the object. As a result the meaning of the sentence is also changed. Compare the following sentences.

 

E 3.    shì zuótiān mǎilái māo  de. 

他是昨天买来猫的。

It was yesterday that he bought the cat.

 

E 3.    shì zuótiān mǎilái de māo

他是昨天买来的猫。

He is the cat bought yesterday.