Chinese Grammar: Using 凭 to say “on the basis of”
Don’t ever look down on a tiny word in Chinese! It may be small and still have lots of practical uses to know! Lupishu’s learning that each passing day. Based on that, today, he’s decided to focus on the role of tiny 凭 in Chinese. 凭 is a preposition that means “based on,” “by,” or “on the basis of”. As such, it comes in very handy to explain certain things. So today, let’s look at the various usages of 凭!
Using 凭 with a verb or a verb phrase
凭 can be used with verbs or verb phrases to express that you are doing something based on something or by virtue of a specific situation. You’ll also often see it translated into English by “by” or “on”.
凭 + Verb/verb phrase
You'll usually find 凭 in sentences with a person as the subject.
凭 他 学 了 那么 多 年 中文，用 中文 写 文章 并不 是 那么 难。
Based on his many years learning Chinese, it’s not that difficult for him to write an article in Chinese.
他 凭 看 电影 来 练习 听力。
He practices listening by watching movies.
凭 他 在 这儿 住 了 三 年，他 非常 了解 这里。
Based on the fact he lived here three years, he knew this place well.
Using 凭 with nouns
When used with a noun (or a noun phrase), 凭 will show how something was done. It allows you to specify the way or the manner the action was carried out. As you’ll see from the examples, these nouns can both be concrete (admission to a place, for instance) or abstract (feelings and such). You can use 凭 indifferently to talk about actions that happen frequently and actions that haven’t happened yet. So in that, it's pretty flexible.
凭 + Noun/noun phrase
凭 学生证 进场 免费。
Admission is free for students with a student card.
凭 感觉 我 认为 他 是 个 好 人。
Based on my (gut) feeling, I think he is a good person.
Using 凭 + 什么 to blame
Another critical use of 凭 to know about is when it's combined with the word 什么: you can use 凭 together with 什么 to form the expression 凭什么. This structure is extremely common in Chinese, and it’s very useful to show dissatisfaction or anger.
Subject + 凭什么 + verb / verb phrase ?
As 什么 is a question word, you won’t be surprised to see that 凭什么 is a question form. You can consider it to mean “whereby”, “why”, or “on what basis do you” in English. As you can imagine, 凭什么 is often paired with blame, or a scolding, and is very frequently used when arguing! See, I told you, it was necessary to know!
你 凭什么 怪 我？
What do you go by to blame me?
我 凭什么 要 相信 你？
Why should I believe you?
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When used with a noun, in some situations, you can also interchange 凭 with 凭 着 and the sentence structure is the same: just place 凭 着 before the noun, like you would 凭. However, 凭 着 can only be used in cases where the action has been completed, for example:
凭/凭 着 自己 的 努力 我 最终 赢得 了 比赛。By my own efforts, I finally won the competition.