Sentences that include 被 are known as ‘被字句’ (bèi zì jù) and are used to show a passive voice.
A passive voice is where the noun being acted upon becomes the subject of the sentence.
Active sentence: Hollie read the book in one day.
Passive sentence: The book was read by Hollie in one day.
In the active sentence, the noun was ‘book’. In the passive sentence, ‘book’ becomes the subject.
In 被 sentences, the preposition “被” ( “叫”、“让”、“给”) comes before the predicate verb.
Subject + 被 ＋ agent + predicate verb
花瓶被他打破了。(huā píng bèi tā dǎ pò le)
The vase was broken by him.
These are the following types of 被 sentences:
1) subject + 被 + agent + action
帽子被风吹跑了。 (mào zi bèi fēng chuī pǎo le)
The hat was blown away by the wind.
2) subject + 被 + action
他的钱包被偷了。 (tā de qián bāo bèi tōu le)
His wallet was stolen.
In this type of sentence, we can add 人 (rén) after 被, which means it is hard or impossible to tell the ‘doer’.
门被人锁了。(mén bèi rén suǒ le)
The door was locked by someone.
3) subject + 被 + agent + 所(为) + action
这条新闻很快就为人们所遗忘了。(zhè tiáo xīn wén hěn kuài jiù wéi rén men suǒ yí wàng le)
The news was soon forgotten by the people.
4) subject + 被 + agent + 给 + action
这本书被他给借走了。 (zhè běn shū bèi tā gěi jiè zǒu le)
This book was borrowed by him.
This example is specific to written Chinese. Usually, an object should come after the 被 character within this sentence pattern.
5) 被 + agent + 把 + subject + action
被人把手机摔坏了。(bèi rén bǎ shǒu jī shuāi huài le)
The cell phone was broken by someone.
The features of 被 sentences
被 and 把 can be used interchangeably in some cases:
她弄丢了钥匙。(tā nòng diū le yào shi) She lost the key.
她把钥匙弄丢了。(tā bǎ yào shi nòng diū le) She lost the key.
钥匙被她弄丢了。(yào shi bèi tā nòng diū le) The key was lost by her.
Similarly to 把 sentences, 被 sentences can not be transformed from any active sentence, there are certain conditions:
1) The predicate should be a transitive verb, and when followed by other words, and then 着,了, 过 or complement shows a result or status change.
啤酒被爸爸喝光了。(pí jiǔ bèi bà ba hē guāng le)
The beer was drunk by my father.
受伤的小狗被他抱着进了屋。(shòu shāng de xiǎo gǒu bèi tā bào zhe jìn le wū)
The injured puppy was held inside the house.
If the sentence contains a disyllabic verb, there should be an adverbial modifier before it, such as an auxiliary verb, or time word, etc.
你这样做可能被人误解。(nǐ zhè yàng zuò kě néng bèi rén wù jiě)
You may be misunderstood.
他的文章已经被杂志社发表了。(tā de wén zhāng yǐ jīng bèi zá zhì shè
fā biǎo le)
His article has been published by the magazine.
2) The object should be known by the speaker and listener, and sometimes can be modified by a demonstrative pronoun or other word
那些人都被他骗了。(nà xiē rén dōu bèi tā piàn le)
Those people are all deceived by him.
今天的报纸被人拿走了。(jīn tiān de bào zhǐ bèi rén ná zǒu le)
Today’s newspaper was taken away by someone.
3) Auxiliary verbs and the time/negative adverbial modifier is put before 被
她没有被叫去看电影了。(tā méi yǒu bèi jiào qù kàn diàn yǐng le)
She was not asked to watch the movie.
走失的孩子最后被警察找到了。(zǒu shī de hái zi zuì hòu bèi jǐng chá zhǎo dào le)
The lost kid has been found by the policeman.
4) In some situations, 被 can be omitted
However, when the object is a person, and the agent must be clarified, the 被 can not omitted:
他被电影吓到了。 (tā bèi diàn yǐng xià dào le) √ He was scared of the movie.
他电影吓到了。 (tā diàn yǐng xià dào le) ×
Additional Notes and Rules about 被 Sentences
1) 被 sentences are commonly used in unpleasant situations:
面包被我烤糊了。(miàn bāo bèi wǒ kǎo hú le)
The bread has been burnt by me.
Sometimes, 被 is not needed within a sentence, but adding 被 can express the unsatisfied emotion of the speaker to the object.
钱他花光了。(qián tā huā guāng le) He spent all the money.
钱被他花光了。(qián bèi tā huā guāng le) The money was spent by him.
2) Some transitive verbs, which express mental processes, can not be transformed into a 被 sentence, such as:
告诉 (gào su) to tell
等待 (děng dài) to wait
接近 (jiē jìn) to be close to
离开 (lí kāi) to leave
依靠 (yī kào) to rely on
服从 (fú cóng) to obey
害怕/怕 (hài pà) to fear
希望 (xī wàng) to hope
主张 (zhǔ zhāng) to claim
觉得 (jué de) to think
3) If the object is referent noun, it will not use 被 sentence, unless the speaker do not expect that happened
信写好了。(xìn xiě hǎo le)
The letter was written.
碗洗好了。(wǎn xǐ hǎo le)
The bowl has been washed.
You might also like the read The Hows and Whys of the Chinese 把 bǎ Particle.