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I know it switches the order of the verb and object and can be used to place emphasis on the object.

我把东西放在椅子上

And 把 should be used to indicate some kind of change is happening to the object. In the example above the change is in position.

Under what circumstances can I use 把? What verbs are most often heard in daily speech?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Hard to say with which verbs 把 is used most often. However here are some examples to your other question (when to use it). Compare the following example:

(1) 我吃了你的鸡蛋汤。

(2)我把你的鸡蛋汤吃光了。

The meaning is "I ate your egg soup" in both cases. However, in the first case the emphasize is on eating the soup while on the second one it's about the result of the soup being eaten already. Look at this 2 dialogues:

A: 你吃了吗? (Have you eaten?)

B: 吃了。我吃了你的鸡蛋汤。(Yes. I ate your soup.)

Topic of this conversation is "eating", what you've eaten is not important. Maybe there is even some soup left.

A: 我的鸡蛋汤呢? (Where is my soup?)

B: 对不起。我把你的鸡蛋汤吃光了。(Sorry. I ate it up.)

In this conversation A wants to know where his soup is. Topic obviously is the soup itself, if you or someone else have eaten it doesn't matter here.


我把头发剪短了。(I cut my hair short.)

Emphasizes: hair is short now. Who, when, how it was cut doesn't matter.

我把邮票贴上了。(I put the stamp on.)

Emphasizes: stamp is put on. Doesn't matter when you put it on, how you did it, ...

Generally I think one could say: 把 is used when you want to emphasize on the result. Same goes for

请把门关上。 (Please shut the door.)

Literally this is: Please make door shut, which is exactly the meaning of it. Just make it happen that the result (door closed) is accomplished. If you actually go up and pull the handle or swing your wand to close it doesn't matter.

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There are certain factors that motivate the use of the "disposal" form with 把 as the main verb (as opposed to the normal form).

One of the biggest is with complements.

  • If the complement could refer either to the main verb or to the object, then the 把 construction forces it to refer to the object.

    他喝完水了。 He has drunk all the water. <完 refers to object> / He has finished drinking the water. <完 refers to verb>

    他把水喝完了。 He has drunk all the water. <完 refers to object>

  • Some verbs naturally take the 把 construction, often in preference to the normal construction. The reason for this may be to do with their collocation with resultative complements, often of direction or disposal. The pre-eminent example of 把-preference is the verb 放 put, place, which is heard most often with 把 (its use without 把 is limited to set phrases like 放弃, 放手).

    Additionally, when 买 buy and 卖 sell take complements, 把 tends to be more common. Other examples include 当 act as and 成 cause to become with large resultative complements.

  • When in addition to the direct object there is an indirect object within the complement (whether resultative or directional or of degree or time/action/frequency), the 把 construction is strongly favoured. Failure to do so is usually seen as hugely awkward (especially in writing), though it may be grammatical in some people's perceptions.

    他把蛋糕切成八块。vs ?*他切蛋糕成八块。

    你要把这个英文句子翻译成中文。 vs ?你要翻译这个英文句子成中文。

    要把东西摆得整齐一点(儿)。vs *要摆东西得整齐一点(儿)。(although 摆东西要摆东西得整齐一点(儿) is OK without 把).

The disposal construction is not used with:

  • Intransitive verbs that cannot take a direct object.
  • Complement-less verbs.
  • Verbs that do not clearly "affect" the object, e.g. psychological verbs.
  • Sensory complements 见 or 到, nor with 到 in the sense of reaching a level or a time, though other senses of 到 can be used.
  • Potential complements, especially with negatives, e.g. 不完; these are generally converted into negated resultative complements within the disposal construction, e.g. 不能把...完。
  • The aspect particle 过.

Sources: AllSet Learning - Chinese Grammar Wiki, Oxford University: Centre for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language - Grammar.

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  1. 把字當介詞講屬後起之意 先秦時代 把字做動詞 握 持 攢之意 如 臣左手把其袖 見於戰國策之燕策 及宋 如蘇東坡之絕句 飲湖上初晴後雨 欲把西湖比西子 借用使之介詞化 並口語化

    把 as a preposition emerged a bit late. Long time ago, 把 is a verb, meaning "get hold of something", as in:

    "荆轲曰 愿得将军之首以献秦 秦王必喜而善见臣 臣左手把其袖 而右手纆抗其胸 然则将军之仇报 而燕国见陵之耻除矣 将军岂有意乎" Source:『戰國策 燕策

    Then somehow people borrow from this meaning and to put it in front of object, as in:

    "欲把西湖比西子" Source: 蘇東坡 (1037-1101) 『飲湖上初晴後雨』

    蘇東坡 『飲湖上初晴後雨』

  2. 把 doesn't just mean putting emphasis on the its following object. In fact, the emphasis is cast onto a component of a sentence based on how you say it. A bit extended from @langdi's answer.

    我把你的*蛋湯*喝了 ("I had your egg chowder." when you stress on 蛋湯)

    wǒ bǎ nǐ de dàn tāng hē le (one possible rendering)

  3. Sometimes using 把 gives a sense of casual, spoken language, for example,

    我明天再寫完它吧 ("I'll write it up tomorrow.")

    wǒ míng tiān zài xiě wán tā ba (one possible rendering)

    明天再把它寫完吧 ("Write it up tomorrow.")

    míng tiān zài bǎ tā xiě wán ba (one possible rendering)

  4. Sometimes it's just weird to say it otherwise, click here for example.

I'm afraid there's no such a universal rule about when to use 把 and when not. You can use it as much as you want. Having experienced for a while, you'll get a picture about when it's natural to use it and get a sense on when not to use it in some exceptional cases.

Happy learning ^o^

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+1. But seriously I think it's better to organize your answer with simpler expressions. Mixing ancient and modern phrases would make even native speakers feel difficult to read. (e.g. 當...講, 時代, 動詞 are modern but 及宋 is ancient. BTW 上古時代 is not correct. You can check wiki for its acknowledged definition.) Yet, if the question is in English, you don't need to answer it in both Chinese and English. Just English is OK :) –  Stan Aug 24 '13 at 13:22
    
@Stan 有些學派將先秦亦劃入上古 –  congliu Aug 24 '13 at 13:26
    
In case of serious learner, they may need some Chinese explanation. I assume there are some experts out there. :D –  congliu Aug 24 '13 at 13:29
    
Just tried to use written Chinese as possible as I can. Looks like a bit old fashion, but still used today, modern doesn't mean casual when it requires respect for listeners. –  congliu Aug 24 '13 at 13:44
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First, sorry for my previous answer.

把 always appear before a verb to emphasize the object you know that, but it also appear in some verb.

For example: 把玩:play something in hands with joy.

mostly used for play antique, jewelry(something valuable), or interesting little things like toy, electronic product. The object should be funny to be played in hands, you can use this word.

把持:hold up your desire.

For example, if you see a really pretty girl, you want to chase her but you already have wife. Your father may tell you "把持住啊" which you should hold your desire, same like when you have intent to buy some really expensive stuff, while you don't have much money, you may need to "把持住", and if you "把持不住", means you failed to control your desire. If you cheat on your girl friend, you want to tell her, you accidentally failed to control your desire. You can say "没能把持住啊"

把妹: It's used by youngsters, and is a vulgar expression for chasing a girl. You can joke with your friends using it.

把 can compose a verb.

And the original meaning of 把 is something like "handful" you can say “胡子一大把” mean very old. Grandpa can say it "我都胡子一大把了"

把 can also appear as a quantifier。 Like "一把米" “一把柴火” “一把机关枪” and so on.

It really to much to say about this character, you can raise more specific(although you are specific...but still too much to say) question.

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well....I am a Chinese! Who vote me down...cry.... –  Yang Aug 2 '13 at 10:09
    
I didn't down vote you, but ... please read the first line of this post carefully. OP knows the emphasis function of 把. –  Stan Aug 2 '13 at 10:26
    
Yang, I did not vote down but your answer has some problems. I tried editing and I'm not sure what you meant to write. Can you try fixing it also considering Stan's suggestion? Thanks. :) –  Alenanno Aug 2 '13 at 10:27
    
Sorry for my careless reading, I am good at Chinese, however my English is just so so. I will rewrite my answer. –  Yang Aug 2 '13 at 14:20
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(sigh...) It's very kind of you to refine the answer. But I think OP was asking a 把字句 question. The wiki page and this article would be good resources. –  Stan Aug 2 '13 at 15:59
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Since the senctence with 把 is more formal, one usually use it in a formal situation, for example, make an apology or in offical situation. But in common life, two people knowing about each other, they will prefer to not use 把.

And the most used verb in China is 吃(eat, eating), it has been a culture. Even they say 吃了吗 as the most used greeting.

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吃 is often heard together with 把, though I'm no sure of its "most often" place. –  congliu Aug 24 '13 at 10:50
    
@congliu 我把苹果吃了 sometimes equals to 我吃了苹果 and the later one is more often used in common life while the former one is more often used in books. –  Eden Harder Aug 25 '13 at 1:54
    
Like your perseverance @EdenHarder! Based on your opinion, I have something to add: (1) 我把苹果吃了 is often heard in spoken conversation. In casual conversation, 我把苹果吃了 can be no different than 我吃了苹果 if we stress and mean the same thing, e.g. when we just wanna tell that the apple has been EATEN, we can stress on 吃了 in both sentences. (2) As well in books, 我吃了苹果 is seen too, e.g. to give a narration of something like background. –  congliu Aug 25 '13 at 2:30
1  
@congliu Thanks for correcting me. –  Eden Harder Aug 25 '13 at 6:07
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