II. The Structure
s of the Complement of Degree
The complement of degree is headed by a structural particle, de得. De得and the complement are placed right after the main verb. The complement can be a stative verb modified by hěn很or 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得 + complement (hěn很 / adverb + stative verb, or verbal / idiomatic expression, or clause)
A 1. action verb + de + hěn很 + stative verb
Tā shuō de hěn hǎo.
He speaks well.
Note that hěn很should be used unless a comparison is to be made. An adverb modifying the stative verb can replace hěn很to further emphasize the stative verb.
action verb + de得 + adverb + stative verb
A 1.1 Tā shuō
He speaks very well.
A 1.2 Tā shuō
de tèbié hǎo.
He speaks unusually well.
A 2. VV-verb + de得 + hěn很 + stative verb
Tā gōngzuò de hěn hǎo.
He works well.
A 3. action verb + de得 + adverb + stative verb
Tā chī de tài duō le, suǒyǐ hěn pàng.
He eats too much, so he’s fat.
A 4. action verb + de得 + stative verb + reduplicated stative verb + de的
A 4.1 Tā zhǎng
de gāo gāo de.
He has grown very tall.
A 4.2 Jīntiān tā dǎbàn de piàopiàoliàngliàng
Today she is very beautifully dressed.
Note that the stative verb in A 4.2 has two syllables, ‘piào漂’ and ‘liàng亮’. 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得 + verbal expression
Tā pǎo de chuǎnbúshàng qì lái.
He was out of breath from running.
A 6. action verb + de得 + idiomatic expression
Tā xiào de qiányǎnghòuhé.
He rocks back and forth with laughter.
A 7. action verb + de得 + clause
Tā shuō de wǒ gèng hútu
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 de得and the complement. Let’s call the first verb ‘verb 1.1’ and the reduplicated verb, ‘verb 1.2’. The complement can be hěn很 / adverb + stative verb, a verbal or idiomatic expression, or a clause.
Verb 1.1 + object + Verb 1.2 + de得 + complement
B 1. verb 1.1 + object + verb 1.2 + de得 + hěn很 + stative verb
Tā shuō Zhōngwén shuō de
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得 + hěn很 + stative verb
Tā zǒulù zǒu
de hěn kuài.
He walks fast.
B 3. VO-compound + verb 1.2 + de得 + verbal expression
Tā pǎobù pǎo
de chuǎnbúshàng qì lái.
He was out of breath from running.
B 4. verb 1.1 + object + verb 1.2 + de得 + idiomatic expression
Tā hē jiǔ hē de yūntóu-zhuànxiàng.
He is dizzy and disoriented from drinking.
B 5. action verb + de得 + clause
Tā chuīniú chuī
de shéi dōu bù xǐhuan
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多, a verbal or idiomatic expression such as bù déliǎo不得了or a clause. Note that expressions such as de hěn得很, de huang得慌, bù 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得+adverb or de得+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得 + complement
C 1. stative verb + de得 + stative verb
kùn de lìhài.
I am terrible sleepy today.
C 2. stative verb + de得 + stative verb duō多 used for comparison
C 3. stative verb + de得 + verbal expression
Tā è de hūnguòqu le.
He was so hungry that he fainted.
C 4. stative verb + de得 + idiomatic expression
C 4.1 Tāmen máng de bùkě kāijiāo.
They are extremely busy.
C 4.2 Yàoshì nǐ è de huang jiù chī diǎnr
If you are very hungry, snack on something.
C 5. stative verb + de得 + clause
de shéi dōu bù
It is so cold that no one wants to go out.