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. 


          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. 


          He speaks very well.


A 1.2 shuō de tèbié hǎo. 


          He speaks unusually well.


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


          gōngzuò de hěn hǎo. 


          He works well.


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


          chī de tài duō le, suǒyǐ hěn pàng. 


          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. 


          He has grown very tall.



A 4.2 Jīntiān dǎbàn de piàopiàoliàngliàng de. 


          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. 


          He was out of breath from running.


A 6.   action verb + de + idiomatic expression


          xiào de qiányǎnghòuhé. 


          He rocks back and forth with laughter.


A 7.   action verb + de + clause


          shuō de gèng hútu le. 


          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. 


          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. 


          He walks fast.


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


          pǎo pǎo de chuǎnbúshàng lái. 


          He was out of breath from running.


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


          jiǔ de yūntóu-zhuànxiàng. 


          He is dizzy and disoriented from drinking.


B 5.   action verb + de + clause


          chuīniú chuī de shéi dōu 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, 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.  


          I am terrible sleepy today.


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


          Běijīng Shànghǎi lěng de duō. 


          Beijing is much colder than Shanghai.


C 3.   stative verb + de + verbal expression


          è de hūnguòqu le. 


          He was so hungry that he fainted.


C 4.   stative verb + de + idiomatic expression


C 4.1 Tāmen máng de bùkě kāijiāo. 


          They are extremely busy.



C 4.2 Yàoshì è de huang jiù chī diǎnr dōngxi. 


          If you are very hungry, snack on something.


C 5.   stative verb + de + clause


          Tiānqi lěng de shéi dōu xiǎng chūqū. 


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