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passive voice in Chinese?

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samantha just done a quick survey. 3 participants, female, native speakers of Mandarin.


1. 你吃饭了没有 ? 有 . (ok)

2. 你吃饭了没? 有. (ok)

3. 你有 没有 吃饭? 有. (ok)

4. 你吃了吗? 有 (not OK)

In China, is question 3 even acceptable?

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I wouldn't ask question 3 in China, just doesn't sound right to me, but that's just my hunch, I'm obviously not an authority or anything.

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1. The question is fine.

2. Also fine, but it's more informal

3. Fine, but the question implies that the answer is important, and so far unclear.

4. Fine.

As for the answers, I would answer 1,2 and 4 with 吃了 - answering with 有 makes it sound like someone has implied I haven't.


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Guest samantha

i'm agree with Roddy!the questions are no problem, but i would answer 吃了or 没有 for each question. i have asked the people around me.they wouldn't anwser 有.at least in Beijing.

[edit]Samantha, I moved your questions about 我要 and 我想 into another topic - more people will see it then -Roddy[/edit]

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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.

The academic answer to this question is that Chinese verbs do not formally distinguish between active and passive voice; nevertheless, Chinese has many passive-like constructions that do work similarly to what the passive voice does in English. Even simply shifting the object to before the verb or to before the subject can be sufficient to create the right nuance.

I will list the main types of passives, basing what I know and listing examples principally from Chinese: A Comprehensive Grammar by Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington. If you like grammar explanations, this book is a must. I will also include a few examples from Sinolingua's 新编汉英虚词词典 New Chinese-Dictionary of Function Words.

1. The 是....的 Passive

I am not sure of many of the constraints on use of this structure as a passive. One thing to note is that sometimes the agent of the action (i.e., the real author of the action) simply appears before the verb. Other times, it can be introduced by 由 (you2), which indicates responsibility for the action.

汽车是我买的。 Qi4 che1 shi4 wo3 mai3 de. The car was bought by me/I was the one who bought the car.

他的肺炎是由感冒引起的。 Ta1 de fei4 yan2 shi4 you2 gan3 mao4 yin3 qi3 de. His pneumonia was caused by a cold.

2. The unmarked "Notional Passive"

This structure has many constraints that are similar to those for 把 ba3 and 被 bei4 constructions. In the absence of adverbials of manner, it also seems primarily to be used to comment on the results of actions, rather than for narrating actions. There are also constraints on its use with monosyllabic verbs, which generally require modals, adverbials or particles before or after for rhythmic reasons. Another constraint is that this structure is avoided with respect to animate "subjects," because of the possibility of ambiguity.

The agent of the action is left unstated or may be indicated by 由 you2. apparently.

门前卫生是由个户打扫。 Men2 qian2 wei4 sheng1 shi4 you2 ge4 hu4 da3 sao3. Sanitation in the area before the door is up to the sweeping of each household. (It is tough to translate this literally)

信可以寄了。 Xin4 ke3 yi3 ji4 le. The letter can now be sent.

信可以寄了吗。 Xin4 ke3 yi3 ji4 le ma. Has the letter been sent?

信还没寄走。 Xin4 hai2 mei2 ji4 zou3. The letter has not been sent off yet.

我家的阴沟经常堵塞。 Wo3 jia1 de yin1 gou1 jing1 chang1 du3 se4. Drains in my house often get blocked.

那瓶酒喝了一半。 Nei4 ping2 jiu3 he1 le yi4 ban4. Half of that bottle of wine has been drunk.

那件工作完成le。 Nei4 jian4 gong1 zuo4 wan2 cheng2 le. That job has been completed.

饭煮好了。 Fan4 zhu3 hao3 le. The rice is cooked.

3. Formal Passives

Traditionaly these imply a negative result, but modern translations of languages with passives like those in English have introduced neutral uses of this structure into technical and journalistic writing that are shifting things. An expression like "**饭被煮好了 Fan4 bei4 zhu3 hao3 le 'The rice is cooked'" is not really acceptable, apparently, since there is no negative implication.

These passives have similar structural constraints to those of 把 ba3 constructions and are generally used to narrate (i.e. tell what happened), unlike Notional Passives that are used to comment on results.

Formal passives are formed by alternatively using:

被 bei4

让 rang4

叫/教 jiao4

让 rang4....给 gei3

叫/教 jiao4...给 gei3

被 bei4 is formal in tone and does not require the agent be expressed. It cannot be used in imperative sentences. The others are colloquial in tone, but require that an agent (at a minimum 人 ren2) be expressed. They can be used in imperative sentences. The variants with 给 gei3 before the verb intensify the passive meaning.

那个警察被打伤了。 Nei4 ge jing3 cha2 bei4 da3 shang1 le. That policeman was wounded.

那个警察被人打伤了。 Nei4 ge jing3 cha2 bei4 ren2 da3 shang1 le. That policeman was wounded (by someone).

那个警察被流氓打伤了。 Nei4 ge jing3 cha2 bei4 liu2 mang2 da3 shang1 le. That policeman was wounded by hooligans.

那个警察让人打伤了。 Nei4 ge jing3 cha2 rang4 ren2 da3 shang1 le. That policeman was wounded.

那个警察叫流氓打伤了。 Nei4 ge jing3 cha2 jiao4 liu2 mang2 da3 shang1 le. That policeman was wounded by hooligans.

那个警察给人打伤了。 Nei4 ge jing3 cha2 gei3 ren2 da3 shang1 le. That policeman was wounded.

那个警察叫流氓给打伤了。 Nei4 ge jing3 cha2 jiao4 liu2 mang2 gei3 da3 shang1 le. That policeman was wounded by hooligans.

饭让我给煮湖了。 Fan4 rang4 wo3 gei3 zhu3 hu2 le. The rice was burnt by me.

4. The Classical Passive: 为 wei2...所 suo3

This still gets use in written Chinese. Since it is of classical origin, there are no constraints on the syllables of the verb and no complements are needed. The implication need not be negative. The only constraint is the style and tone of the utterence.

他的讲话为掌声所淹没。 Ta1 de jiang3 hua4 wei2 zhang3 sheng1 suo3 yan1 mo4. His speech was drowned by the applause.

这位老师为他的学生所爱戴。 Zhe4 wei4 lao3 shi1 wei2 ta1 de xue2 sheng suo3 ai4 dai4. This teacher was loved by his students.

5. The Lexical Passive

This is formed by verbs that are inherently passive in meaning. Disyllabic verbs are generally paired with disyllabic objects and monosyllabic verbs with monosyllabic objects. With disyllabic verbs, the true agent (not the surface subject) or the extent of the verbal action needs to be expressed in the form of an attibute ending in 的 de. Monosyllabic verbs and their monosyllabic objects are taken as fused units that require nothing else. All of these are formal in tone.

她收到老师的批评。 Ta1 shou1 dao4 lao3 shi1 de pi1 ping2. She was criticized by the teacher.

她收到严厉的批评。 Ta1 shou1 dao4 yan2 li4 de pi1 ping2. She was severly criticized.

她得到朋友们的支持。Ta1 de2 dao4 peng2 you men de zhi1 chi2. She was supported by her friends.

病人得救了。 Bing4 ren2 de2 jiu4 le. The patient was saved.

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I'm a quasi-first time user and have become mindful of the fact that it's polite to introduce oneself when entering forum discussions. Though thinking what such an introduction might entail is strangely discomforting. I'm Tom. There we go.

Anyway, I've been very interested to read all this stuff about the passive, especially that "被" is not the real McCoy in the Chinese sense.

But I'm also interested, and couldn't find it on the explanation posted by Altair, how do you, or perhaps simply, would you, translate the English practice of using passive to phrase sentences in essays such as:

It is not known whether the suspect has been allowed a phone call.

Would one simply make a literal translation of "No one knows whether..."?

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