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wix

passive voice in Chinese?

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wix

I had a bit of difficulty trying to teach my student how to use the passive voice in English tonight. It also made me realise how little knowledge I have of the finer points of Chinese grammar. I assume Chinese has a passive voice, but could somebody give me a few examples and/or a brief explanation of it.

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Haizi
I had a bit of difficulty trying to teach my student how to use the passive voice in English tonight. It also made me realise how little knowledge I have of the finer points of Chinese grammar. I assume Chinese has a passive voice, but could somebody give me a few examples and/or a brief explanation of it.

Here come some examples:

Ta1 bei4 da3 le5.

Ta1 gei3 gou3 yao3 le5.

Ta1 rang4 ta1 lao3po5 ma4 le5 yi2 dun4.

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Quest

English: He was hit.

Chinese: ta1 bei4 da3 le. 他被打了。

English: He was bitten by the dog.

Chinese: Ta1 gei3 gou3 yao3 le5. 他给狗咬了。

English: He was blamed by his wife.

Chinese: Ta1 rang4 ta1 lao3po5 ma4 le5 yi2 dun4. 他让他老婆骂了一顿。

Usually, bei4(被)......le(了) is the syntax for passive voice. le(了)works here like the english "ed" ending to indicate the completion of the action. however, it can sometimes be omitted, for example, 你被他打,你还原谅他。(ni3 bei4 ta1 da3, ni3 hai2 yuan2 liang4 ta1 -- you were hit by him, you still forgive him)

gei3(给) and rang4(让) are not as universal as bei4.

you can say:

ta bei da le.

ta bei gou yao le.

ta bei ta lao po ma le yi dun.

but you can't say:

ta rang da le

ta gei da le

translated literally:

He let hit.

He let dog bitten.

He let wife yelled at.

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roddy

So what are the differences in meaning between bei, rang, and gei, and when can we use them?

Roddy

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Quest

"bei" -----"by something/someone", receiving an action.

"rang" ---- "let/yield to", receiving the action with some "carelessness/helplessness".

"gei" ----"let/give", knowingly... has a sense of "i've let you do something to me"

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smithsgj

Also "ai". Wo ai 挨 male (I got told off).

The form with bei (and I suppose ai) is sometimes called the adversative passive. It was associated more with being hit or killed than being loved or being taken out for dinner, although it seems that this is now changing.

I think the English passive is often best translated with shi...de. This class is taught by postgrads: zhei ban ke shi yanjiusheng jiaode. Or by nothing. THis car has been driven for 4 hrs: zhe liang che yijing kaile 4ge zhongtou.

Any native speakers care to comment?

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bokane

My impression of the different between 被 and 给 is that 给 requires an actor after it - you could say 他被骂了, without specifying who did the telling-off, but you'd have to say 他给人骂了. You could also say that as something like 他受到了人家的批评.

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pazu

well... when you use the "universal" passive voice indicator (BEI), it's understood by all Chinese, but I must say those "BEI" Chinese are really strange, Yu Guangzhong, a famous scholar pointed out these are some of the common examples of the so-called "European Chinese" (Ou hua Zhongwen).

In Chinese, the passive voice is usually used without any indicator at all. This must be a little bit confusing at first, but it's more or less like a custom and can be very easily understood by the whole context.

e.g. Beizi dapo le! (Cup was broken.) [beizi = cup]

BEI is easy to use (and indeed used by many Chinese nowadays), but you can't speak very good Chinese if you keep using the word "BEI" all the time. As other said so, Rang/Gei/Ai are indeed more common. One more word that you should use carefully, "SHOU", it's just too European.

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smithsgj

> Beizi dapo le! (Cup was broken.) [beizi = cup]

cf beizi pole = the cup broke

so isn't "da" acting as a passive indicator? Someone broke the cup, the subject of "da", but we don't know who.

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pazu

Smith, "dapo" is used as a verb in Chinese (break). You can use "po" too, while I think the word "po" is either a verb or an adjective.

I used this example because it shows that sometimes you don't need to use any passive voice indicator in Chinese.

Compare:

Beizi dapo le! (Cup was broken)

Wo ba beizi dapo le! (I broke the cup)

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roddy

A quote from this book which I've been reading recently. The quote actually comes from research in 1970 by somebody named Chao and if anyone is really interested I'll give them the reference

A Chinese translator . . . uses a preposition bei 'by' whenever he sees a a passive voice in the original verb, forgetting that Chinese verbs have no voice.

. . . once this sort of thing is done often enough, it gets to be written in originals, even where no translation is involved . . .Such 'translatese' is unpalatable to most people and noone talks in that way yet , but it is already common in scientific writing, in newspapers, and in schools.

I find it quite interesting that all the 'bei' sentences we see today are possibly unneccessary, just the result of overaccurate translation. It's maybe similar to the way English acquired rules like the 'don't split infinitives' one from Latin.

Roddy

PS If anyone looks at the book and decides they want to buy it, you can get it in Beijing printed in China - costs 20 or 30Y. If you really want to buy it from Amazon let me know, and I'll set up an affiliate link so I can cream off 15% :D

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smithsgj

Roddy, can you make it 10% for cash US?

(note heavy sarcasm :))

oh, in Taiwan you 有 gets used a lot as a sort of past tense marker: ni chifan le ma? You.

Am I right in thinking this doesn't happen so much in China? Sounds like it's copied from English present perfect, but only my guess.

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Tsunku

I always heard stuff like "你吃饭了没有?" asked as a question in China, I think it's a fairly colloquial way of speaking. The "没有" is just a way of saying "or not" as far as I understand it. Instinctively I wouldn't answer that kind of question with "有" but I can't remember if I ever heard people say it that way in China or not.

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Guest samantha

people in china not alway say"你吃饭了吗?” at the moment. only a few people keep saying it as a custom. "你好”or "hello" is the word you can always heard in china now.

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Tsunku

yeah, I never actually heard that given as a greeting, only when they were really wanting to know if I'd eaten or not.

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smithsgj

I think the greeting issue has been discussed on another thread.

But Samantha, as a native speaker from mainland China, can you answer us the question: if someone asked 你吃饭了没有 ni chifanle meiyou? would you answer 有you or just 吃了chile?

What about if the question was 你吃饭了嗎ni chifanle ma? Does it make any difference?

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Guest samantha

there is no different between"你吃饭了没有“and “你吃饭了吗”. same meaning.we usually answer 吃了or 没有 if someone asked.

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smithsgj

Yes but would you say 有you (as in Taiwan) if the answer was yes????

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Guest samantha

en.....no, i didn't use 有 to answer it before, and i never heard people who around me say 有.

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Guest samantha

smithsqj, have you heard people in Taiwan use 有 to answer? maybe they are used to say in that way.but i think it sounds strange.

maybe "你吃了没有

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