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Help understanding the grammar behind: 你是做什么的?

你是做什么的? What do you do (for a living)?

I am confused mostly because of 是. Why is it there? Why is the phrase not simply: 你做什么的?

Thanks for your help!

For learning: Chinese (Mandarin)
Base language: English
Category: Other



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    Best Answer - Chosen by the Asker
    The 是。。。的 construction is very interesting and is used to emphasize specific aspects about a sentence. It's mostly used to ask questions that seek specific information, usually in the past.

    The pattern is: SUBJ + 是 + INFORMATION + VERB + 的

    For example:
    我是坐飛機來的. (Emphasizes that I came by plane)

    This page has more than enough information on the 是。。。的 pattern; I only gave a basic overview.


    The way I see it, 什麼的also means et cetera. The way you're saying it requires the verb to be in order to signify "what are you made of?"

    你是做什么的? in cases like this, the part after 是 becomes an adjective. 做什么的 is thus used as an adjective. You can omit 是 in most cases, but the grammar behind it stays the same. It sounds weird from the English perspective, it's like English verbs becomes noun or adjective when the -ing suffix is added. For example, I am daunted vs it's daunting. An non-English speaker might ask why it is daunting, why not it daunts. :-), so to sum up when 的 is added, the phrase becomes an adjective.

    我是来工作的, 3 verbs in a row, kinda mind bending, but 来工作的 becomes.... what? an adjective. Hope it helps

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