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If you’ve been studying Chinese for a while, chances are you’ve encountered the dreaded 把 (bǎ) structure by now. This has no equivalent in English, but it’s extremely common in Chinese and thus critical to learn. To help clear the air, here’s a short, basic guide to this important structure in Chinese grammar.
Just like in English, the basic word order for a sentence in Chinese is: Subject – Verb – Object:
When using 把, the word order of a sentence totally changes: Subject – 把 – Object – Verb:
We now have a Subject-Object-Verb order, with 把 coming before the object. As you may have guessed, this structure is used to place emphasis on the object and what is done with it. What happened to the dumplings in the example above? They got eaten, of course, because dumplings are amazing. There has to be some sort of action taken on the object – it gets used, affected, or changed. Therefore, some verbs can’t be used with this structure. We’re not trying to get into the nitty gritty today, though – just trying to introduce this important structure and give you a basic understanding.
There are many ways you can use this structure. Let’s take a look at some of the most common:
We could get more in-depth and talk about negative statements and asking questions, but just focus on the basics for now and try using 把 in the ways listed above. As you get more comfortable with this structure, you can dive a bit deeper. Here’s a great introductory video from the Chinese Grammar Viki page on YouTube so you can actually hear some examples: