Chinese (Mandarin) - The 把 (bǎ) Structure

There are many, many hanzi which do not scare the average laowai. The "bǎ" structure is not one of them. One of our teachers pointed out to me that being able to use this structure well is one of the things that seperates great students from average ones, so it's worth time to learn, despite its complexity. It has no exact English equivalent. This crazy grammatical feature leaves the average xuesheng baffled. You can ba this, but you can't ba that? So how is ba used? 把 can be used to indicate a change, making someone do something, motion, or like the verb "take" in English

The very basic sentence structure is this : (subject) + 把 + (object) + (verb).

Notice that the usual word order changes to this form, but it's not absolutely always the case that it does so.

So what can we make of this structure? Well, get your notebook out, this is one word that can mean many things. It has some similarities to the verb "让" (ràng - to make sb do sth). It is typically used like this when somebody causes you to feel a certain way.

When 把 (bǎ) acts like 让 (ràng - to make sb do sth)
bǎ wǒ de mā qì dé zhí kū
...makes my mother cry so hard
sheí bǎ nǐ xiàzhe le
Who scared you so much?
chī là de néng bǎ gǎnmào zhìhǎo ma
Can eating spicy (things) cure a cold?

But that's not all! It is often used with opening and closing, or even just moving things. As you will see, these don't always necessarily have to be physical things.

Using 把 (bǎ) to show Opening, Closing, Moving, and Taking
tā bǎ bàngōngshì de chuānghu dǎkāi
She opened the windows in the office.
tā gāngcái bǎ tā de zhànghù guānbì
He just closed his account
wǒ lǎogōng bǎ nèi zhāng zhuōzi nuó dào kètīng
My husband moved that table into the living room.
hòulái wǒ māmā zhīdào le, ránhòu tā jiù bǎ wǒ diànhuà fēngbì le
After that, my mom found out and took away (shut off) my phone account.
nǐ bǎ húxū tìdiào le ā
You shaved your beard off!

If you absolutely had to translate "把" as something in English, a close translation could be the verb "to take". The idea doesn't always translate nicely into English, but it works very well to help you understand it. When it's paired with the hanzi 成 (chéng), it can be used like "take you as", "heard as", "see as", and the like.

把 (bǎ) with a verb and 成 (chéng) to mean something like "take to be"
wǒ bǎ nǐ kànchéng wǒ de gēr
You're like a bro to me.
Lit: I (take) you view as my bro.
wǒ yòu bǎ cǎo tīngchéng cào
Again I heard "grass" as "fuck". (Lit: I again take grass hear as fuck)
(The word for grass and the word for "fuck" only differ by tone. Be careful!)

There are even more uses that show it being translated as "take" or "give". Again, because of the differences between the language, sometimes 把 (bǎ) can be translated, sometimes it's can't. In these following examples, using "take" or "give" can help clarify its usage and how to translate it.

Other Uses Similar To "Take" or "Give"
yǒu shíjiān, wǒ bǎ suǒyǒu de gēcí xiě gěi nǐ
When I have time, I'll take all the song lyrics and write them down for you
bǎ nǐ de shǒujī hàomǎ gàosù wǒ
Tell Me Your Phone Number (Lit: Take/Give your phone number tell me)
nǐ kěyǐ bǎ zīliào fāgěi wǒ
You can send me the materials (You can take your materials and send them to me).
bǎ nǐ nàgè běijīnghuà gěi wàng le
Take your stinkin' Beijing dialect and forget it!

These uses of 把 (bǎ) were verified by multiple Chinese textbooks.

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