Jump to: navigation, search

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.

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 男孩 吃 了 。"the hot dog" is now the subject, and "the boy" is the "doer"Règǒu bèi nánhái chī le.The hot dog was eaten by the boy.
  • 热狗 吃 了 。passive voice with the "doer" omittedRègǒu bèi chī le.The hot dog was eaten.

Why use them?

Passive sentences are used for several main reasons:

  1. To indicate that one has been negatively affected. For example:
    • 打 了 。bèi dǎ le.He got beaten up.
  2. To shift emphasis from the "doer" of the action to the one affected by that action. For example:
    • 公司 炒鱿鱼 了 ?bèi gōngsī chǎo yóuyú le?You got fired by the company?
  3. To avoid having to mention the "doer" of the action, either because it is unknown, or for other reasons. For example:
    • 我 家 偷 了 。Wǒ jiā bèi tōu le.My house got stolen.

How to use them

Normal use of 被 has a few preconditions:

  1. 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.
  2. If you're going to state who the verb was done by (the "doer"), then the subject doing the original action must be known.
  3. 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:

  • bèi piàn le.I got deceived by him.
  • 警察bèi jǐngchá zhuā le.He got arrested by the police.
  • 父母bèi fùmǔle.He was scolded by his parents.

被 sentence without doer:

  • 我 的 车 Wǒ de chē bèi zhuàng le.My car got hit.
  • 他们 做 的 坏事 发现 Tāmen zuò de huàishì bèi fāxiàn le.The bad things they've done were discovered.
  • 文件 Wénjiàn bèi shān le.The files are deleted.

Right or Wrong

  • 咖啡 我 喝 。Kāfēi bèi wǒ hē.The coffee was drank by me.
  • 咖啡 我 喝 Kāfēi bèi wǒ hē le.The coffee was drank by me.
  • 咖啡 我 喝 完 了Kāfēi bèi wǒ hē wán le.The coffee was finished by me.
  • 打 。bèi dǎ.He got beaten up.
  • bèile.He got beaten up.
  • 伤 了bèishāng le.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.

Some examples:
Doer Negative Subject Verb Phrase
没有 打伤
她 的 想法 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

Some examples:

  • 那些 书 走 了 吗 ?Nàxiē shū bèi jiè zǒu le ma?Are those books borrowed?
  • 谁 打 bèi shéi dǎ de?Who did he get beat up by?
  • 你 是不是 公司 炒鱿鱼 Nǐ shì bu shì bèi gōngsī chǎo yóuyú le?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.

Some examples:
Subject Object Verb Aspect particle
我 的 车

被 Sentences with Complements

Both Result complements and Direction complements work well in 被 sentences.

Some examples:

  • 花瓶 了 。Huāpíng bèi shuāi suì le.The vase was broken into pieces.
  • 那个人 车 撞 了 。Nàge rén bèi chē zhuàng le.That man got hit and killed by a car.
  • 那个 男人 警察 赶 出去 了 。Nàge nánrén bèi jǐngchá gǎn chūqù le.The man was kicked out by the policeman.
  • 孩子 他 父母 带 回去 了 。Háizi bèi tā fùmǔ dài huíqù le.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.

Some examples:
Subject Adv. Doer Verb Phrase
刚才 同学
我们 老师
你 的 手机
小偷 终于 抓住

See also

Sources and further reading