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The Hows and Whys of the Chinese 把 bǎ Particle

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The  (bǎ) particle marks the noun that follows it in a sentence as a direct object. This kind of sentence is known as 把字句 (bǎ zì jù). Furthermore, the  (bǎ) particle emphasises the object, and suggests that some action needs to be taken care of. The result of the action has to come after the 把 (bǎ) particle.

One of the biggest questions you’re probably all thinking about asking is ‘why do I need to use this particle?’

Well here’s why. Although most of the time we use the sentence pattern:

Subject + verb + object

There are times, when this sentence pattern can not properly explain the action that the speaker wants to describe.

For example, you want to ask someone to wash the dishes for you. If you don’t use the   (bǎ) particle, then the sentence would look like this:

Could you please wash the dishes?

你洗一下碗吧。(nǐ xǐ yī xià wǎn ba)

This sentence is just a suggestion, as shown by the use of the other ‘ba’ particle, 吧 (ba). You can learn more about the  (ba) particle in The Complete Guide to Modal Particles.

However, when using the  (bǎ) particle, the emphasis is on the action that needs to take place to the object, which are the dishes:

你把碗洗一下吧。(nǐ bǎ wǎn xǐ yī xià ba.)

In this case, the normal pattern of subject + verb + object is replaced with

Subject + 把 + object + verb

The position of the object within the sentence has changed to add emphasis.

Let’s take a closer look at the main features of the  (bǎ) particle, and how to use it properly within a sentence.

There are four features of 把字句 (bǎ zì jù):

1. The Object after the  (bǎ) particle is known

The object that comes after the  (bǎ) particle is usually known by both the speaker and listener. This means that sometimes pronouns such as  (zhè),  (nà), 这些 (zhè xiē) and 那些 (nà xiē) and other modifiers can be added before the object. The object can also be a general object, well known or a proper noun, etc.

Example:

我把那本书买了。(wǒ bǎ nà běn shū mǎi le) = I bought that book.

这几年,我把周边的几个国家都玩遍了。(zhè jǐ nián, wǒ bǎ zhōu biān de jǐ ge guó jiā dōu wán biàn le) = In the last few years, I have travelled around several different countries.

2. Object + Verb

The verb in the 把字句 (bǎ zì jù) should be a transitive verb, which means the verb (doing word) needs an object to make sense grammatically. Because of this, an intransitive verb, one that does not need an object, such as  (shì),  (yǒu),  (shǔ yú), 喜欢 (xǐ huan) , 知道 (zhī dao) and 认识 (rèn shi), CANNOT be used in a 把字句 (bǎ zì jù).

Example:

我看见了他。√  (wǒ kàn jiàn le tā)

我把他看见了。 × (wǒ bǎ tā kàn jiàn le)

 = I saw him.

3. Verbs + Modifiers in  (bǎ) Sentences

There is usually another element that comes after the verb in a 把字句 (bǎ zì jù), to express a result, especially for a monosyllabic verb.

Example:

她说的话把她的妈妈气坏了。(tā shuō de huà bǎ tā de mā ma qì huài le) = Her words made her mother furious.

If there is an adverbial modifier, which gives the result before the verb, then there is no other element after the verb.

Example:

你一定要把这个问题解决。(nǐ yī dìng yào bǎ zhè ge wèn tí jiě jué.) = You must solve this problem.

4. Negation and Adverbs in  (bǎ) Sentences

If there are any negative adverbs, adverbs of time or ‘wish’ verbs, they need to go in front of the  (bǎ) particle.

Example:

为什么不把这个消息告诉他?(wèi shén me bù bǎ zhè ge xiāo xi gào su tā?) = Why didn’t you tell him this news?

他昨天把作业做完了。(tā zuó tiān bǎ zuò yè zuò wán le) = He finished the homework yesterday.

你应该把钱还给她。(nǐ yīng gāi bǎ qián huán gěi tā) = You should return the money to her.

There are additional rules for the  (bǎ) particle that I will outline here:

Omitting the  (bǎ) particle

In some sentences, the  (bǎ) particle can be omitted because  (bǎ) is predominantly used to emphasize the status and results of the action.

Example:

别把衣服到处乱扔。(bié bǎ yī fu dào chù luàn rēng.) x

别到处乱扔衣服。(bié dào chù luàn rēng yī fu.)

= Don’t throw the clothes everywhere.

Occasionally, even when  (bǎ) can be used in a sentence, it can be changed into a subject-predicate sentence (subj+verb) or a single object + verb sentence.

Examples:

她把饭吃完了。(tā bǎ fàn chī wán le)

饭她吃完了。(fàn tā chī wán le)

= She finished the meal.

你应该把牛奶放进冰箱。(nǐ yīng gāi bǎ niú nǎi fàng jìn bīng xiāng.)

牛奶,你应该放进冰箱。(niú nǎi, nǐ yīng gāi fàng jìn bīng xiāng.)

= You should put the milk back to the fridge.

Although technically, the second sentences are grammatically correct, they sound peculiar and do not flow like a normal sentence should.

The  (bǎ) particle + Location

In some sentences, when an object is defined, and there is “…(zài)”, “…(dào)”, “…(chéng)” or another compound complement or locative object,  (bǎ) must be used. These sentences can also be turned into a subject-predicate sentence shown in the second example.

Examples:

请把箱子放到车上。(qǐng bǎ xiāng zi fàng dào chē shàng)

箱子,请放到车上。(xiāng zi, qǐng fàng dào chē shàng.)

Please put the suitcase on top of the car.

你应该把名字写在这儿。(nǐ yīng gāi bǎ míng zi xiě zài zhèr.)

名字你应该写在这儿。(míng zi nǐ yīng gāi xiě zài zhèr.) √

应该写名字在这儿。(nǐ yīng gāi xiě míng zi zài zhèr.) ×

You should write the name here.

In this last example, the character  (nǐ) is used here as a subject, but this makes the sentence incorrect.

 (bǎ) Sentences With Two Objects

When there is a compound complement such as “…(gěi) ” or other double-object verb sentence, then we will use 把字句 (bǎ zì jù).

Example:

他把那张电影票给了我。(tā bǎ nà zhāng diàn yǐng piào gěi le wǒ) = He gave me that movie ticket.

他把昨天借走的那把雨伞送回来了。(tā bǎ zuó tiān jiè zǒu de nà bǎ yǔ sǎn sòng huí lai le) He returned the umbrella that he has borrowed yesterday.

If you have any questions or remarks about the 把 (bǎ) particle, please leave them in the comment section below.

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