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Chinese Grammar: Verbs that cause things to happen

What do you say when you want someone to do something for you? And how do you say that in Chinese? It’s time to learn some magic words so that you know how to ask for things you want to see happen and how to ask someone to do a favor for you in Chinese. These few magic verbs can make your life easier, so let’s see what they are and how to use them!

The formal name of these verbs is causative verbs because they cause something to happen. A causative verb in English, for instance, is to make (someone do something).

A few common verbs to get people to do things

To start out, here are some commonly used magic words:

  • qǐng, (here) to ask; please
  • ràng, to make; to allow; to let
  • jiào, (here) to ask
  • 使 shǐ, to make

These causative verbs all share the same function of getting people to do things - perhaps of doing things for you? There are little differences between these words as they all have various levels of politeness.

  • is the most polite way to have people to do things, so you might want to use it when you’re talking to your co-workers or someone you don’t know or don’t know very well.
  • 使 expresses that someone or something helps a result come true. It’s also quite polite, even more so in writing, as it sounds very formal.
  • and are two words that very often used in spoken Chinese. Out of the two, is the least polite, so it’s mostly used with family and those with whom you have a close relation.


Subject + Causative verb + Noun/Pronoun + Verb + Object


文件 交给 总经理
Xiaowang asked me to hand the document to the general manager.

Please have a seat.

学习使 进步
Studying helps one go forward.

读书使 快乐
Reading makes me happy.

爸爸 哥哥 报纸
Dad asked my brother to buy a newspaper.

妻子 抽烟
My wife doesn’t let me smoke.

妈妈儿子 回家 吃饭
Mom told her son to go home for dinner.

爷爷 好好 学习
Grandpa asks me to study hard.

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