II. The Structures of the Complement of Degree

 

The complement of degree is headed by a structural particle, de. Deand the complement are placed right after the main verb. The complement can be a stative verb modified by hěnor other adverbs; it can also be a verbal expression, idiomatic expression or clause. The structure of a sentence with a complement of degree depends on the main verb and whether the verb takes an object or not.

 

A. When the main verb is an action verb or VV-compound (verb + verb compound, such as gōngzuò工作, xiūxi休息, and xuéxí学习) and it does not take an object, the verb and its complement follow the structure below.

 

 

verb + de + complement (hěn / adverb + stative verb, or verbal / idiomatic expression, or clause)

 

 

A 1.   action verb + de + hěn + stative verb

 

          shuō de hěn hǎo. 

          他说得很好。

          He speaks well.

Note that hěnshould be used unless a comparison is to be made. An adverb modifying the stative verb can replace hěnto further emphasize the stative verb.

 

          action verb + de + adverb + stative verb

 

A 1.1 shuō de fēicháng hǎo. 

          他说得非常好。

          He speaks very well.

 

A 1.2 shuō de tèbié hǎo. 

          他说得特别好。

          He speaks unusually well.

 

A 2.   VV-verb + de + hěn + stative verb

 

          gōngzuò de hěn hǎo. 

          他工作得很好。

          He works well.

 

A 3.   action verb + de + adverb + stative verb

 

          chī de tài duō le, suǒyǐ hěn pàng. 

          他吃得太多了,所以很胖。

          He eats too much, so he’s fat.

 

A 4.   action verb + de + stative verb + reduplicated stative verb + de

 

A 4.1 zhǎng de gāo gāo de. 

          他长得高高的。

          He has grown very tall.

 

 

A 4.2 Jīntiān dǎbàn de piàopiàoliàngliàng de. 

          今天她打扮得漂漂亮亮的。

          Today she is very beautifully dressed.

Note that the stative verb in A 4.2 has two syllables, ‘piào’ and ‘liàng’. If P stands for the first syllable and L stands for the second one, the way to double the word is ‘PPLL’, not ‘PLPL’.

 

A 5.   action verb + de + verbal expression

 

          pǎo de chuǎnbúshàng lái. 

他跑得喘不上气来。

          He was out of breath from running.

 

A 6.   action verb + de + idiomatic expression

 

          xiào de qiányǎnghòuhé. 

他笑得前仰后合。

          He rocks back and forth with laughter.

 

A 7.   action verb + de + clause

 

          shuō de gèng hútu le. 

          他说得我更糊涂了。

          He spoke to such an extent that he made me even more confused.

 

 

B. When the main verb is an action verb and it TAKES an object or when the verb is a VO-compound (verb + object compound, such as zǒulù走路and shuìjiào睡觉), the verb must be reduplicated before taking deand the complement. Let’s call the first verb ‘verb 1.1’ and the reduplicated verb, ‘verb 1.2’. The complement can be hěn / adverb + stative verb, a verbal or idiomatic expression, or a clause.

 

Verb 1.1 + object + Verb 1.2 + de + complement

 

B 1.   verb 1.1 + object + verb 1.2 + de + hěn + stative verb

 

          shuō Zhōngwén shuō de hěn hǎo. 

          他说中文说得很好。

          He speaks Chinese well.

Note that the verb and object before the reduplicated verb simply name the action. They point out what is to be commented on. The verb does not function as the main verb. The ‘verb 1.1 + object expression’ can be understood as ‘as far as speaking Chinese is concerned’ or ‘as for speaking Chinese’. The reduplicated verb functions as the main verb. That is why the complement of degree is placed after it.

 

B 2.   VO-compound + verb 1.2 + de + hěn + stative verb

 

          zǒu zǒu de hěn kuài. 

他走路走得很快。

          He walks fast.

 

B 3.   VO-compound + verb 1.2 + de + verbal expression

 

          pǎo pǎo de chuǎnbúshàng lái. 

他跑步跑得喘不上气来。

          He was out of breath from running.

 

B 4.   verb 1.1 + object + verb 1.2 + de + idiomatic expression

 

          jiǔ de yūntóu-zhuànxiàng. 

他喝酒喝得晕头转向。

          He is dizzy and disoriented from drinking.

 

B 5.   action verb + de + clause

 

          chuīniú chuī de shéi dōu xǐhuan . 

          他吹牛吹得谁都不喜欢他。

          He boasts about himself to such an extent that no one likes him.

 

 

C. When the main verb is a stative verb, the complement can be a stative verb indicating degree such as lìhài厉害and duō, a verbal or idiomatic expression such as déliǎo不得了or a clause. Note that expressions such as de hěn得很, de huang得慌, déliǎo不得了, and de duō得多have become idiomatic expressions. They are also called intensifiers by some scholars. So here we do not regard them as de+adverb or de+verbal expression. They will be regarded as idiomatic expressions. This is because they share the same properties as idiomatic expressions when they are negated. When the main verb is a stative verb, the stative verb and its complement follow the structure below.

 

 

stative verb + de + complement

 

 

C 1.   stative verb + de + stative verb

 

          Jīntiān kùn de lìhài.  

          今天我困得厉害。

          I am terrible sleepy today.

 

C 2.   stative verb + de + stative verb duō used for comparison

 

          Běijīng Shànghǎi lěng de duō. 

          北京比上海冷得多。

          Beijing is much colder than Shanghai.

 

C 3.   stative verb + de + verbal expression

 

          è de hūnguòqu le. 

          他饿得昏过去了。

          He was so hungry that he fainted.

 

C 4.   stative verb + de + idiomatic expression

 

C 4.1 Tāmen máng de bùkě kāijiāo. 

          他们忙得不可开交。

          They are extremely busy.

 

 

C 4.2 Yàoshì è de huang jiù chī diǎnr dōngxi. 

          要是你饿得慌就吃点儿东西。

          If you are very hungry, snack on something.

 

C 5.   stative verb + de + clause

 

          Tiānqi lěng de shéi dōu xiǎng chūqū. 

          天气冷得谁都不想出去。

          It is so cold that no one wants to go out.