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The word order in Chinese is so-called SVO: Subject – Verb – Object:

我爱你 I love you

In imperative tense, the subject cannot be written:

开门! Open the door!

Nevertheless, verb (开) and object (门) still have the same position.

In Chinese, there is a “trick“ to shift the direct object to the left of the verb, highlighting it within the sentence, which will undergo the effect expressed by the action of the verb. The direct objects shifted can be either real, abstract animate or inanimate.

How can we do that? Thanks to the把 (bǎ) particle. Originally it meant “hold”, but now it used to “mark” the object. However, additional words will be added to the verb in order to define better the action.

Let’s see an example:

衬衫穿上

你 – 把衬衫 – 穿上 You – 把 dress – wear above You are wearing a shirt

In this way, the direct object 衣服 (the dress) brings forward the verb (穿), adding 上 as directional word.

Why we should shift some words? It is a merely stylistic and structural reason. This is an optional choice.

is sometimes used when the action “will hurt” the object:

猫咬了

Dog – 把 cat – bite the dog bites the dog

On the other hand, is strongly recommended in order to avoid “ placement conflicts”. In other words, when the verb is followed by other words which define the result, the direction, the transformation.

考试都写完了 I – 把 exam – all write finish I finished my exam

妈妈把孩子放在澡盆里 Mother – 把 the son – put in – bathtub – inside. The mother puts the baby in the tub.

The complement of degree, 得, which express the effects of the action of the verb and it must follow the verb, It does not allow an “intrusion” by other words. So the object cannot bring forward the verb. It will change the meaning of the sentence.

把我的自行车修得真好! He – 把 my bicycle– repair really well! He has repaired my bicycle very well!

We can still use把 with modal verbs such as需要,能, 应该, 想 , etc.

他需要些事情解决一下 He needs – 把 these matters – settle a bit. He needs to sort these matters out.

Furthermore, If we would like to use a negative result complement, the particle which expresses the negation, 没, it must be placed before 把.

Here an example:

我没馅饼吃完 I don’t (lit. no) – 把 this pie – eat finish I did not eat all the pie.

Finally, this table should help you to remember this particle:

(Lao Zhang) (rope) (cut) 断了 (off)
Subject 把 (bǎ) Object Transitive verb Supplement
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