Lately, one word has been torturing me in Chinese and that word is 把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ), which can mean a variety of things like “to take, to take hold of, to handle, to grasp” and on and on.
While there are many definitions and usages for this troublesome little word, we’re going to focus on just one today because sometimes simpler is better.
把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ) is often used to make sentences super clear and helps speakers avoid confusion when it comes to who is receiving what or what exactly happened to an object, like how the cake was eaten.
First, let’s talk about using 把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ) as an indirect object, which is just a fancy way to say that we use to talk about who gets what.
Ex. 1 ) 我要把鑰匙拿給房東.
ㄨㄛˇ ㄧㄠˋ ㄅㄚˇ ㄧㄠˋ ㄕ˙ ㄋㄚˊ ㄍㄟˇ ㄈㄤˊ ㄉㄨㄥ
wǒ yào bǎ yàoshi ná gěi fángdōng
I will take my keys to the landlord.
Ex. 2) 她把禮物送給男朋友了.
ㄊㄚ ㄅㄚˇ ㄌㄧˇ ㄨˋ ㄙㄨㄥˋ ㄍㄟˇ ㄋㄢˊ ㄆㄥˊ ㄧㄡˇ ㄌㄜ˙.
tā bǎ lǐwù sònggěi nánpéngyǒu le.
She gave a gift to her boyfriend.
Notice that in these sentences, 把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ) either directly follows the main subject（我／她),is followed by the object, then the verb and finally who is receiving the thing – the keys or the gift.
So, that would look like:
Subject + 把 + object + verb + preposition (給／ ㄍㄟˇ/ gěi/) + person receiving the object
It’s important to mention that把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ) is used to show that the action has been completed, in the sense that the person no longer has the keys or that the gift has been given.
In a similar sense, you would use把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ) to make it clear what happened to something, for example:
Ex. 1) 她喝完湯了。
ㄊㄚ ㄏㄜ ㄨㄢˊ ㄊㄤ ㄌㄜ˙。
tā hē wán tāng le。
She drank finish the soup.
In this sentence, we’re not sure whether she finished the soup and there isn’t any left or whether she finished her portion of soup and there’s still some left over.
When we use把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ), it becomes very clear what happened to the soup.*
Ex. 2) 她把湯喝完了。
ㄊㄚ ㄅㄚˇ ㄊㄤ ㄏㄜ ㄨㄢˊ ㄌㄜ˙。
tā bǎ tāng hē wánle。
She drank all of the soup.
By using 把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ), we now know that she drank all of the soup and there isn’t any left.
Here are a couple more examples put together in the same way.
Ex. 3) 他把牛奶喝完了。
ㄊㄚ ㄅㄚˇ ㄋㄧㄡˊㄋㄞˇ ㄏㄜ ㄨㄢˊ ㄌㄜ˙。
tā bǎ niúnǎi hē wánle。
He drank all of the milk.
Ex. 4) 她把蛋糕吃完了。
ㄊㄚ ㄅㄚˇ ㄉㄢˋ ㄍㄠ ㄔ ㄨㄢˊ ㄌㄜ˙。
tā bǎ dàngāo chī wánle。
She ate all of the cake.
So the formula might look like:
Subject + 把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ) + object + verb + an adverb（完／ㄨㄢˊ /wán）
As mentioned there are lots of other ways to use把 (ㄅㄚˇ/ bǎ), but this is one that helps you make your communication clearer.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments below!
*This example was inspired by this wonderful resource.