IX. shì ... deconstruction and sentences with le


Because the shì ... deconstruction is associated with completed actions and because English uses the past tense to report things that have taken place, students often make errors by focusing on completion when circumstantial elements about an action actually demand the attention. It is important to remember that the shì ... deconstruction does not deal with the completion, duration or frequency of an action or with the quantity of the object. It focuses on when, where and how an action took place. It is used to seek or provide information about the time, place, company, conveyance, manner, tools, purpose, agent and recipient of the action. The following dialogue shows when to use le and when to use the shì ... deconstrcution.


A:      mǎi shū le ma? (Focus: accomplished fact)  


Have you bought the books yet?


B:      Mǎi le. (Focus: accomplished fact)  


Yes, I have.


A:      (Shì) shénme shíhou mǎi de? (Focus: time)  

() 什么时候买的?

When did you buy them?


B:      (Shì) zuótiān mǎi de.   (Focus: time)

() 昨天买的。

I bought them yesterday.


A:      (Shì) zài nǎr mǎi de? (Focus: place)  

() 在哪儿买的?

Where did you buy them?


B:      (Shì) zài Xīnhuá shūdiàn mǎi de. (Focus: place)  

() 在新华书店买的。

I bought them at the Xinhua Bookstore.


A:      Xīnhuá shūdiàn hěn yuǎn, shì zěnme de?   (Focus: conveyance)  


Xinhua Bookstore is far, how did you go there?


B:      (Shì) zuò chē de. (Focus: conveyance)  

() 坐车去的。

I went by bus.


A:      Zuò-le duō cháng shíjiān de chē?   (Focus: the duration of the action)


          How long was the ride?


B:      Zuò-le ge zhōngtóu de chē.    (Focus: the duration of the action)        


          The ride was an hour long.


A:      (Shì) rén de ma?    (Focus: company)

() 一个人去的吗?

Did you go there alone?


B:      shì ( rén de).    (Focus: company)


No, I didn’t go there alone.


A:      (Shì) gēn shéi de?   (Focus: company)


With whom did you go there?


B:      (Shì) gēn Wáng Tóng de.    (Focus: company)

() 跟王同去的。

I went with Tong Wang.


A:      mǎi shū le ma?  (Focus: accomplished fact)


          Did he buy books, too?


B:      méi mǎi.  (Focus: accomplished fact)


          No, he didn’t.


A:      mǎi-le běn?   (Focus: quantity of the object)


          How many did you buy?


B:      mǎi-le běn.   (Focus: quantity of the object)


          I bought five.