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Causative verbs

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Causative verbs are used to cause or influence people to do things. In English, these are verbs like "make," "let," "have," and "get," as in "get Billy to eat dinner." The "get" is the causative verb.

The most common causative verbs in Chinese are:

  • 让 (ràng)
  • 叫 (jiào)
  • 请 (qǐng)
  • 使 (shǐ)

Structure

Make sure to take note of the different meanings and levels of formality. For example, 使 (shǐ) and 让 (ràng) when used as causative verbs basically mean the same thing (to make) but 使 (shǐ) is used in more formal or written Chinese while 让 (ràng) is used more in spoken Chinese.

Subj. + [Causative Verb] + Person + Predicate

The predicate part of the pattern can be a verb or an adjective.

"Make" vs. "Let"

It's worth noting that 让 is the most common causative verb in spoken Mandarin, and is often translated into English as either "make" or "let." It may seem strange to speakers of English that these two very different words are the same word in Chinese. "Make" is kind of like forcing, and "let" is kind of like allowing, right? But in Chinese, the understood concept generally makes clear how willing the object of the causative verb is. It's just something that takes time to get used to.

Examples

  • 你 为什么 不 我 去 ?Nǐ wèishénme bù ràng wǒ qù?Why wouldn't you let me go there?
  • 这 部 电影 人 很 感动 。Zhè bù diànyǐng ràng rén hěn gǎndòng.This movie really moves people.
  • 那个 老人 我 想到 了 我 爷爷 。Nàge lǎorén ràng wǒ xiǎng dào le wǒ yéye.That old man makes me think about my grandpa.
  • 他 不 听话 ,你 我 怎么办 ?Tā bù tīnghuà, nǐ jiào wǒ zěnmebàn?He wouldn't listen to me. What are you expecting me to do?
  • 他 偷偷 约 别的 女孩 ,你 我 怎么 想 ?Tā tōutōu yuē bié de nǚhái, nǐ jiào wǒ zěnme xiǎng?He secretly asked other girls out. What are you expecting me to think?
  • 你 儿子 在 学校 的 表现 老师 很 头疼 。Nǐ érzi zài xuéxiào de biǎoxiàn jiào lǎoshī hěn tóuténg.Your son's behaviors at school give the teacher a lot of headache.
  • 我 想 你 帮 我 一 个 忙 。Wǒ xiǎng qǐng nǐ bāng wǒ yī gè máng.I want to ask you to do me a favor.
  • 能 不 能 你 明天 照顾 一下 我 的 狗 ?Néng bu néng qǐng nǐ míngtiān zhàogu yīxià wǒ de gǒu?Can I ask you to look after my dog tomorrow?
  • 他 的 演讲 使 听众 们 非常 激动 。Tā de yǎnjiǎng shǐ tīngzhòng men fēicháng jīdòng.His speech made the audience very excited.
  • 经济 危机 使 很多 公司 倒闭 了 ,也 使 很多 人 失去 了 工作 。Jīngjì wēijī shǐ hěn duō gōngsī dǎobì le, yě shǐ hěn duō rén shīqù le gōngzuò.The financial crisis caused lot of company out of business, and many people lost their job because of this.

See also

Sources and further reading

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