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Chinese Grammar: Lesson: 把 sentences

When you want to talk about how an action made something move or highlight the result of an action on an object, is a useful grammar word to know. It has no equivalent in English, but it is widespread in Chinese, so it’s vital to grasp.

Ready? Let’s learn how to express yourself in Chinese with !

When do you use ? The basics

You use to talk about what happened to the object. is used to talk about what action was completed on the object, in other words, what was done to it, or what one has accomplished with it.

A note: here, we’re not talking about objects that are things, but rather Objects in the grammar sense, which are, in short, the recipient of the action.

The technical term used is that is used to talk about the disposal of an object - that doesn’t mean the object was thrown away, only that there was an action performed on the object.

The main takeaway is that there has to be an action on the object to use a sentence.

You’ll find a lot of sentences in recipe instructions, for instance!

How do you build a sentence with

The pattern with is sometimes referred to as “ sentences” because it has an impact on the whole order of the sentence. The main thing to know about a sentence is that it re-arranges the structure of a sentence to place emphasis on the result of an action. Let’s see what we mean by that, before moving on to situations where you’ll want or need to use a sentence in Chinese.

As you know, a normal sentence’s structure is like this:

Subject + Verb + Object

Example

打破 杯子
I broke the cup.

But in a sentence, the sentence order is different and need to be rearranged. The Object (i.e., the noun that is having an action done to it - here 杯子 the glass) is placed before the Verb (here 打破, dǎpò to break) and the sentence structure becomes.

Structure

__Subject + + Object + Verb Phrase__

Example

杯子 打破
I broke the cup.

As you see, immediately follows the subject. You then need to place the Object (in the example, that’s the 杯子 cup) before the Verb(here, 打破 to break, to smash).

In this form, the result of the action of breaking (打破) comes in last (), which highlights it. That way, you can easily see that the result is: the cup is broken now. Here are a few more examples.

Examples

烧开
Bring the water to a boil. (烧开, shāo kāi is to boil)

起来
The cat wants to be picked up by you again. ( 起来, bào qǐ lái, to pick up in one's arms)

Pretty simple, right? Once you wrap your head around the fact with , the structure changes, you’re on your way to understanding .

Now, let's get a little more specific: not all sentences can be turned into a sentence. Specifically, sentences require some things in particular.

Use to talk about actions with a clear result or emphasis

When building a sentence, you are talking about what happened to the recipient of an action and looking to highlight it. This means your sentence shouldn’t just contain the verb of the action. What should it also include? That’s right. The result, i.e. what happened to the object once the action was performed. This means, in a sentence, the verb should always be followed by another word or phrase that highlights the result or places emphasis on the action.

In short: you can’t have simply a verb on its own in a sentence.

So, a sentence should always look like this:

S + + Object (recipient of the action) + Verb (action) + Something

A way to see if a sentence is in order is to see if you can answer the question “ what happened to the object” or “what did the subject do the object”? If you can, then good; this is a situation that requires a . If there isn't a clear result, you can’t use .

What usually follows the verb in a sentence?

What you’ll most commonly find in a sentence is a word or a longer phrase following the verb, that either indicates completion, shows the result, describes how or where the action was carried out or explains what happened to the object once the action was carried out.

markers are good candidates for sentences as are verb complements, which are used to bring additional information about a verb. sentences welcome all sorts of complements, whether result complements (, ), direction complements (, , 起来 ,...) or descriptive complements ( + a description).

A few additional details on making sentences with

sentences can be questions

To make a sentence a question, do the usual: keep your sentence structure and add a or V+ not + V at the end, or replace part of the sentence with the question word of your choosing.

sentences can be negated

Simply place or in front of : that negates the whole structure.

Example

垃圾 拿出
He didn’t take out the trash. ( 垃圾, lājī, trash)

One things to remember: you should never negate within the structure.

doesn’t mind adverbs

Adverbs (马上,, etc...) that are about the subject are placed before . If they modify the object, they are placed before the verb. Lastly, if they modify the verb or the object, they can indifferently be placed either before or after the verb.

Structure

Subject +(adverb) + + object + (adverb) + verb+ disposal

Examples

我们 中文 作业 做完
We have all finished our Chinese homework. (作业, zuòyè, homework)

我们 中文 作业 做完
We finished all our Chinese homework.

How do you know if you should use ? Ten questions to ask yourself

You get the gist of how works, but perhaps it’s not clicking yet. Have you tried Master Yocha's sentences yet? There's nothing like inductive learning to help you understand how works!

You'll also be running into A LOT in Mandarin Chinese, and you'll see: with plenty of practice and exposure, you’ll get a feel for how frequently and in which situations this pattern is used. The more you discover sentences that contain it, the more you’ll get used to .

In the meantime, here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to see if you should use _ or not.

1/ Did something happen to the object?

This is the question we just talked about previously.

Was the object affected, changed or used? Do you need to elaborate or specify how the object is being handled or dealt with? In other words, is there a result or an emphasis to place on what happened to the object?
Yes ==> Use
No ==> no

1a/ Are you talking about a completed action on the object?

Yes =>
No ==> no

Common culprits, you’re likely to find in your sentence:

  • A marker marks a completed action and works perfectly with .

Example

杯子 打破
I broke the glass. See the ?


She turned off the lights.

  • Doubled verbs, which can also mark completed actions are also a good choice with . Both the Verb Verb and Verb Verb structures work here.

Example


Open the door a bit!

2/ Are you talking about things being put in places? Is the verb part of what you want to say?

Yes? Then use . This is just how it is in Chinese. You can’t use the verb without a structure to talk about the action of “putting” something in place.

Example

桌子
Put the book on the table.

3/ Does the object get moved? Is the Object being taken somewhere?

is used a lot to make things move. This is the sentence structure you'll need:

S+ + O + V + / / + location

Common culprits you’re likely to find in your sentence are: / / + location

Example

衣服 椅子
Please put the clothes on the chair.

4/ Is the verb related to the object a psychological verb or a perception verb?

Psychological verbs and perception verbs are verbs like 知道 (to know), (to want, to think), 喜欢 (to like), (to love), that are related to feelings and mental states.

If the main verb you plan on using is a verb like this, then don’t use . These verbs don’t affect the object in any way so no is required.

5/ Did the object get changed into something?

If you see a in the sentence or need to express that somebody or something has changed because of an action, you can use .

The structure you’ll use is + A + V + + B (result)

Common verbs you can expect to see with a : 变成, to turn into and , to translate.

For instance:

英语 句子 中文
Translate this English sentence into Chinese.

6/ Did the object get finished or used up?

Yes? Then use .

Structure:

Subject+ + object + verb +

A common culprit for objects that were finished, completed or used up is the presence of the character , which means to finish, complete, whole, entire.

A regular sentence's word order would be:


He drank all of the wine.

In a sentence, the order becomes:

完了
He drank all of the wine.

Here’s another example:

米饭 完了.
I ate all the rice.

7/ Did the thing get damaged or destroyed, lost?

If the Object you're talking about has got damaged, lost or destroyed, you can use .

A common culprit you’ll find in your sentence: (nòng), and its occasional accomplice: (huài, bad, spoiled, broken, to break down...)

Examples

手机弄丢
I lost my cell phone (My cell phone was lost by me).

汽车弄坏
I have damaged the car.

8/ Did a certain thing get passed onto an object through an action?

You need to use to explain that a certain thing passes onto an object through an action. That sounds complicated, but it's not: it can be as simple as handing your report to your boss: you're the subject passing a certain Object (the report) to another element (your boss) through an action (handing over). Such a sentence looks like this:

S + + O + V + + other element

Examples

已经报告 交给 老板
I’ve already handed the report to boss.

衣服
Please hand me the clothes that are on the bed.

9/ Do you know what the object is? Is the object definite? Specific?

Not sure what a definite object is? A definite object is simply an object you know you’re talking about --, and your listener also knows what you’re talking about. A clue: there could be a 那个, 这个 or a possessive ( for example) in the sentence. If there is and you know what object is, good: you can use .
Sometimes, you won’t find a 那个, a possessive article in the sentence. Because in Chinese, such things are often omitted. What do you do then? If it’s clear enough what object the speaker is talking about, you can still use .

In the cases where you don’t know what the object is exactly, odds are you can't use , because you're facing an indefinite object. For instance, there might be a or and another classifier in front of the object, sort of like when you say “a chair” in English: it’s not definite, you don’t know what chair we’re talking about. This indicates an indefinite object. If that’s the case, you cannot use .

10) Does the verb and its complement comment on the object?

Some sentences are about what happened to the object, others what happened to the subject. Guess which ones you can use with?

  • The sentence is all about the object: Use
  • The sentence comments on the subject? No then.

Let's compare. You can say :

吃完
I finished the food (the food was finished by me). = This is a proper use of

But you can’t say:

吃饱
I made the food was full

The sentence makes no sense, neither in Chinese nor English, as it is incorrect grammatically. I, the subject, am full, thanks to the food, and it is not the food that was made full by me... Do you see? Hence the sentence is wrong and a short 吃饱 to say "I’m full" is much preferable.

With this list of 10 questions, hopefully, you'll always know when to use .

To conclude, a rapid summary of

  • the particle has an impact on the whole structure of the sentence
  • Situations that involve something happening or affecting the object are perfect situations for
  • There are conditions to use :
    • the sentence must be about a specific object the speaker and the listening both know about.
    • the sentence deals with what happens to the object in the end (complete actions)

And when in doubt, refer to this list of 10 questions!

Without any further ado, let’s go practice!

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