Comprehensive Guide to Nouns Ending With 的 de

I don’t think you’ll find a list like this anywhere on the web, or in textbooks or grammar books. Indeed, I’ve read pretty much every major Chinese grammar textbook and do not remember seeing these nouns covered in any shape or form.

So what is this post about? It’s a compilation of a very special type of noun in Mandarin – the noun which ends with 的 de. These nouns are special because 的 usually marks the end of one word and the beginning of another, but occasionally – very occasionally – it can also mark an entirely separate word. I’m no linguist, but in my opinion these should be considered discrete words since their meaning cannot simply be derived by the sum of their parts.

I think this list will be useful for Chinese learners, since these words are completely unintuitive. Interestingly, many refer to occupations, and some of these occupations are becoming less common in modern-day China. Others refer to people you may see around the street, while others are idiomatic or curse words.


Comprehensive Guide to Nouns Ending With 的 de


Basic Words

男的 nánde – guy

女的 nǚde – girl

吃的 chīde – things to eat

喝的 hēde – things to drink

玩的 wánde – places to have fun; fun things to do

公的 gōngde – male (animal)

母的 mǔde – female (animal)

亲爱的 qīn’àide – darling; honey; dear

相好的 xiānghǎode – boyfriend/girlfriend; partner

荤的 hūnde – meat dish

素的 sùde – vegetarian dish


People On The Street

过路的 guòlùde – passerby

骂街的 màjiēde – person shouting abuse on the street

遛弯儿的 liùwānrde – person going for a walk (Beijing dialect)

遛狗的 liùgǒude – person walking their dog

打头的 dǎtóude – person standing at the front of a line

要饭的 yàofànde / 讨饭的 tǎofànde – beggar



做买卖的 zuòmǎimàide – businessperson

管账的 guǎnzhàngde – accountant

当兵的 dāngbīngde – soldier

种地的 zhòngdìde / 种田的zhòngtiánde – farmer

收破烂的 shōupòlànde – garbage collector

杀猪的 shāzhūde – butcher

算命的 suànmìngde / 算卦的 suànguàde – fortuneteller

看门的 kānménde – gatekeeper; door attendant

办事的 bànshìde – office worker

打铁的 dǎtiěde – blacksmith

剃头的 tìtóude – barber

要账的 yàozhàngde /要钱的 yàoqiánde – debt collector

卖艺的 màiyìde – street artist

拉车的 lāchēde – rickshaw driver

说书的 shuōshūde – storyteller

送水的 sòngshuǐde / 挑水的 tiāoshuǐde – someone who delivers drinking water to one’s home

倒水的 dàoshuǐde – someone who pours water

淘粪的 táofènde / 挑大粪的 tiǎodàfènde (in North-East China) – someone who collects human waste for use as fertiliser

管事的 guǎnshìde – someone with high-level responsibility in the government (i.e. an official) or in a company

掌柜的 zhǎngguìde – shopkeeper (old-fashioned)

女掌柜的 nǚzhǎngguìde – female shopkeeper (old-fashioned)

跑堂的 pǎotángde – waiter (old-fashioned), same as 小二 xiǎoèr


Curse Words

狗日的 gǒurìde – literally 狗 (“dog; despicable”) + 日 (“fuck”) – motherfucker

狗娘养的 gǒuniángyǎngde – literally – 狗 (“dog; despicable”) + 娘 (“mother”) + 养 (“to raise”) – bastard – synonym – 狗杂种 gǒuzázhǒng – literally “mixed-breed dog”

杀千刀的 shāqiāndāode – literally “[one who needs to be] killed with the cuts of a thousand knifes” – bastard; son-of-a-bitch


Quirky Words

带把儿的 dàibàrde –literally “with a handle” – a baby boy

当家的 dāngjiādede – literally “[one who] manages home” – the one who manages the household

少当家的 shàodāngjiāde – the son (少shào) of the person who manages the household

掌勺的 zhǎngsháode –literally “holding a spoon” – the one who does the cooking at home

吃软饭的 chīruǎnfànde – literally “[one who] eats soft rice” – someone who lives off a woman

垫背的 diànbèide – literally refers to belongings put under a body after death – metaphorically refers to someone who is made to share the fault or guilt of others; a scapegoat


Any and all comments are welcome.

17 Comments to "Comprehensive Guide to Nouns Ending With 的 de"

  1. Alec's Gravatar Alec
    04/03/2012 - 7:13 am | Permalink

    Interesting. I never thought of any of these as nouns, because I’ve always seen them as contractions of “…的人“, but I wonder if over time any of these will (or have already) develop separate functions to “…的人“. I always find it awkward attaching a possessive to these: “别的男的的的士的确是,,,“, hehe

  2. Joseph's Gravatar Joseph
    04/03/2012 - 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I have often used this structure, but it is not until reading your little article that I actively thought about them as nouns. Do you think that just about any ‘verb + 的’ can be used as a noun in this way?

    I have heard/used all of the following, but they all refer to people or organizations controlled by people. A second question I have is this: can this sort of structure be used for inanimate objects?
    你是做什么的? ——– You are a-person-that-does-what?
    我是学中文的。 ——– I am one-that-studies/learns-Chinese.
    我是打酱油的。 ——– I am one-that-doesn’t-care.
    美国是经常打别的国家的。 ——– America is one-the-often-attacks-others.
    本公司是做进口的。 ——– This company is one-that-does-importing.

  3. 08/03/2012 - 1:30 am | Permalink

    Awesome. I never singled these out as specific words. I do think it’s effective to try to learn versatile chunks of language that you can re-arrange conveniently. These fit the bill perfectly.

  4. 老麦's Gravatar 老麦
    09/03/2012 - 12:46 pm | Permalink

    One of my favorites is an old school expression for teachers… 吃灰的
    Eat dust from the blackboard…

  5. sonic's Gravatar sonic
    14/03/2012 - 3:28 am | Permalink

    thanks, it is also very useful to English learner

  6. 20/03/2012 - 2:05 am | Permalink


  7. 20/03/2012 - 1:07 pm | Permalink

    端盘儿的 (old)

  8. 20/03/2012 - 1:19 pm | Permalink


  9. 20/03/2012 - 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Also 当官的. Actually, I think this is a fairly productive formation. I’m sure it could be easily used in fairly modern ‘occupations’ like 坐台的, 出台的, etc.

  10. XXB's Gravatar XXB
    29/03/2012 - 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious where you get these words. Where I am in North China, some of these are really out-dated or used only in a specific context. Also, some of them have a distinct feeling, for instance the cuss words which my girlfriend says are things uneducated villagers would use as cuss words.

  11. CSK's Gravatar CSK
    27/09/2015 - 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Carlgene , 真的 , 你是最棒的。 ☺☺☺

  12. Igor Anelli's Gravatar Igor Anelli
    03/02/2017 - 5:46 am | Permalink

    phantastic ways of sayings and expressions; one should stay in China at least 2o years to learn them all with all best compliements and congratulations to the author, he is no doubt a gifted linguistic scholar!

  13. Igor Anelli's Gravatar Igor Anelli
    03/02/2017 - 5:54 am | Permalink

    I am really sorry I was referring to the Top 80 Most Common Polite Expressions in Chinese, not to to words +de; it a matter of misunderstanding, not of moderation!!!
    Therefore I do confirm my compliments.

  14. ChristianPFC's Gravatar ChristianPFC
    10/11/2020 - 3:15 am | Permalink

    各层的的房间… Rooms on every floor… I don’t understand why there are two 的. Maybe this is another case for this post?

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