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语法Grammar:“把”字句(1)The “把” sentence(1)

The “把” sentence is a kind of sentence with a verbal predicate. It is frequently used in Chinese to show how the actions in the sentence dispose of an object and how this disposal affects the object, i.e: whether the object has been transposed, or its state has been changed. For example:

General statementEmphasis on disposal
A: 你去做什么了?

B: 我去还书了。

A: 你的书呢?怎么不在这儿了?

B: 我把书还了。(So you can’t find it now.)

A: 她的生日是几号?

B: 我忘了(她的生日)。

A: 昨天你为什么没去她的生日聚会?

B: 真对不起,我把她的生日忘了。(so I’ve made a mistake.)

In the “把” sentence, the preposition “把” and its object – the thing(s) to be disposed of – must function together as an adverbial and be placed after the subject and before the verb.

 S+ 把 + O + V + other elements

SubjectPredicate
 OpVAdverbialPrep “把”O(disposed of)VOther elements
  这事儿了。
  那张表和照片了吗?
上次借的书了。
  借书证了没有?

 We can see the following points from the sentences in the above table:

(1) The main verb in the “把” sentence must be a transitive one, and often it has the meaning “dispose of” or “manipulate”. Verbs such as “有,在,是,来,去,回,喜欢,觉得 and 知道”, which do not have the meaning “dispose of” or “manipulate”, cannot be used in the “把” sentence.

(2) The object in the “把” sentences is usually definite in the speaker’s mind. Therefore , we cannot say: “我先把一本书还了。” We can only say: “我先把那本书还了”, or “我先把上次借的书还了。”

(3) The verb in the “把” sentence must take some other element(s) after it. For example:

我把这事儿忘了。(了)

(4) An optative verb or adverb (functioning as an adverbial) must be put before “把”. For example: 我得先把上次借的书还了。

October 12, 2010

2 comments

  1. Very concise summary! Thanks for clarifying the impact that 把 has on meaning – I wasn’t too clear on that before, although I had some inkling that it was to do with emphasis.

    Readers here might also be interested in approaching 把 grammar by looking at common mistakes, as explained here: http://chinesegrammar.info/particles/ba3-common-mistakes/

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