One day, Tom saw a large sign in front of a busy, midtown restaurant with the printed characters, “小心地滑.” As he passed, he starts to slowly skate his feet across the floor. His friend Jack immediately stops him.
Tom, nǐ gàn má ne?
Jack: Tom, 你 干 嘛 呢？
Tom, what on earth are you doing?
Páizi shang xiězhe: xiǎoxīn de huá. Wǒ zhèng mànman de huá a.
Tom: 牌子 上 写着： 小心 地 滑。我 正 慢慢 地 滑啊。
The sign says “小心地滑,” I’m listening to it, I’m slipping slowly now.
Hā ha, nà shì tíxǐng kèrén dìmiàn hěn huá, yào xiǎoxīn. Shì “xiǎoxīn dì huá,”
Jack: 哈哈，那 是 提醒 客人 地面 很 滑，要 小心。 是 “小心 地 滑”，
bú shì “xiǎoxīn de huá.”
不 是“小心 地 滑”。
Ha-ha, no, no, no. The floor is wet and very slippery, so customers should be cautious. It’s “Caution! Slippery Floor.” not “Skate Carefully.”
Yuánlái shì zhèyang a. (yǒu diǎn liǎn hóng)
Tom: 原来 是 这样 啊。（有 点 脸 红）
Ah… so it is. (a little embarrassed)
Key Learning Point:
In Chinese, the word “地” has more than one pronunciation and meaning. It’s a noun when pronounced as “dì,” for instance, “地板 (dìbǎn) floor,” “地面 (dìmiàn) ground” and “田地 (tiándì) field.”
Nǐ yīnggāi bǎ xié fàng zài dìshang.
你 应该 把 鞋 放 在 地上。
You should put your shoes on the floor.
When pronounced as “de,” it can be used as a structural auxiliary word between an adjective (or an adverb) and a verb as a symbol of adverbial. In this case, the word “地” is a structural particle. For example, “高兴地说 (gāoxìng de shuō) saying happily.”
Tā zhèngzai rènzhēn de xuéxí.
他 正在 认真 地 学习。
He is studying seriously now.
In the story above, Tom misunderstood the two meanings of “地” and made a humorous mistake.