Using "bei" sentences
Bei Sentences, which are called 被字句 (bèizìjù) in Chinese, are a key way to express the passive voice in modern Mandarin Chinese. In passive sentences, the object of an action becomes the subject of the sentence, and what would have been the subject of the normal (active voice) sentence, the "doer" of the action, becomes secondary and may or may not be included in the passive sentence.
- 1 What is a 被 sentence?
- 2 Why use them?
- 3 How to use them
- 4 Forming 把 Sentences
- 5 See also
- 6 Sources and further reading
What is a 被 sentence?
被 (bèi) sentences (被字句 in Chinese) are simply sentences which use a passive verb and the preposition 被. 被 sentences are not the only way to create the passive verb form in Chinese, but they are the most common and definitely the type to tackle first.
For the sake of clarity, take these sentences for example:
- 男孩 吃 了 热狗 。normal sentence in the active voice; note that "the hot dog" is the object of the verb "ate"The boy ate the hot dog.
- 热狗 被 男孩 吃 了 。"the hot dog" is now the subject, and "the boy" is the "doer"The hot dog was eaten by the boy.
- 热狗 被 吃 了 。passive voice with the "doer" omittedThe hot dog was eaten.
Why use them?
Passive sentences are used for several main reasons:
- To indicate that one has been negatively affected. For example:
- 他 被 打 了 。He got beaten up.
- To shift emphasis from the "doer" of the action to the one affected by that action. For example:
- 你 被 公司 炒鱿鱼 了 ？You got fired by the company?
- To avoid having to mention the "doer" of the action, either because it is unknown, or for other reasons. For example:
- 我 家 被 偷 了 。My house got stolen.
How to use them
Normal use of 被 has a few preconditions:
- The verb to be used with 被 needs to have an object (this will become the new subject of the 被 sentence). Verbs that take objects are called transitive verbs.
- If you're going to state who the verb was done by (the "doer"), then the subject doing the original action must be known.
- The verb can't be too simple (for example, a one-character verb like 吃). Put simply, something needs to come after the verb. That "something" can be a particle, a complement, or sometimes even an additional object.
We're using the most basic 被 sentence pattern for example, so that it will be easier for you to understand well:
Subj. + 被 (+ Doer) + Verb + 了
被 sentence with a doer:
- 我 被 他 骗 了 。I got deceived by him.
- 他 被 警察 抓 了 。He got arrested by the police.
- 他 被 父母 骂 了 。He was scolded by his parents.
被 sentence without doer:
- 我 的 车 被 撞 了 。My car got hit.
- 他们 做 的 坏事 被 发现 了 。The bad things they've done were discovered.
- 文件 被 删 了 。The files are deleted.
Right or Wrong
- 咖啡 被 我 喝 。The coffee was drank by me.
- 咖啡 被 我 喝 了 。The coffee was drank by me.
- 咖啡 被 我 喝 完 了 。The coffee was finished by me.
- 他 被 打 。He got beaten up.
- 他 被 打 了 。He got beaten up.
- 他 被 打 伤 了 。He got beaten up and he was wounded.
Forming 把 Sentences
Negating 被 Sentences
There's just one other complication. What if you want to make a sentence in the negative? To negate a 被 sentence, you need to insert 没 or 没有 (past) directly in front of 被. For the present and future, use 不.
|她 的 想法||不||被||父母||理解||。|
Question Forms of 被 Sentences
You can make 被 sentences into questions in the usual three ways to form questions in Mandarin:
- With a question particle
- With a question word
- With positive-negative verbs
- 那些 书 被 借 走 了 吗 ？Are those books borrowed?
- 他 被 谁 打 的 ？Who did he get beat up by?
- 你 是不是 被 公司 炒鱿鱼 了 ？Did you get fired by the company or not?
被 Sentences with Aspect Particles
The particles 了 and 过 can both be used with 被 constructions, while 着 cannot. This is because the disposal of the object in 被 construction must be complete in some way in the context. 着 indicates an action is "ongoing," which is why it's not appropriate for a 被 construction.
|我 的 车||被||撞||过||。|
被 Sentences with Complements
- 花瓶 被 摔 碎 了 。The vase was broken into pieces.
- 那个人 被 车 撞 死 了 。That man got hit and killed by a car.
- 那个 男人 被 警察 赶 出去 了 。The man was kicked out by the policeman.
- 孩子 被 他 父母 带 回去 了 。The child was taken back by his parents.
Adverbs in 被 Sentences
What if you want to include adverbs in your 被 sentence? Where should those go? They go in the same place as the negative adverb 没有, above. (Frequently you'll see the word "adverbial" or "adverbial adjunct" used in this case, because some words in Chinese, such as time words, act like adverbs but are technically nouns.) In the following example we'll use the adverb 刚, which is used to express that something just recently happened.
|你 的 手机||又||被||偷||了||？|
Sources and further reading
- A Practical Chinese Grammar For Foreigners (外国人实用汉语语法) (pp. 470-7) →buy
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (pp. 55) →buy
- Boya Chinese Elementary Starter 2 (博雅汉语初经起步篇) (pp. 182) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 164-6) →buy
- Chinese Grammar - Broken down into 100 items - Basic and Intermediate Levels (汉语语法百项讲练 - 初中级) (pp. 362-4) [ →buy]
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 243-4) →buy
- Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (pp. 492-508) →buy
- Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide (pp. 100-7) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 239-40) →buy
- Short-term Spoken Chinese: Threshold Vol. 2 (汉语口语入门篇下) (pp. 168-70) [ →buy]
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课下册） (pp. 428-9) →buy
- ChinesePod (free content): Qing Wen - Passive Verbs and 被