I could choose 由 or 被. Why should I choose 由? Are there any good reasons for this choice?

  1. 这件事 _______ 公司负责。My girlfriend immediately said 由, but she couldn't say why.

Considering the answers below about 被 only being used with the perfective, if I change my sentence thus, is 被 then ok?

  1. 这件事 _______ 公司负责了。
  • Well, as a native speaker, I would say there is nothing wrong if "被" is used. I speak of "nothing wrong" in the sense that if you use "被" then no one will misunderstand what you intend to say. Using "被" is just less idiomatic.
    – Yes
    Dec 14, 2014 at 11:10
  • I agree with @Chou because it is often that being idiomatic doesn't require a reason. I tried to come out with a few reasons but I couldn't convince myself, and neither do current answers convince me. Dec 14, 2014 at 15:06
  • As an alternative you might say "被公司所負責". Though this alternative expression is still less idiomatic than "由公司負責", it is "better" than simply using "被".
    – Yes
    Dec 14, 2014 at 15:31
  • some users might ask,if there is nothing wrong with using 被, would there be anything wrong with using 叫,让 or 给,which often take the place of 被。 Would anybody misunderstand what you intend to say。Some might argue the question involves collocation or 词的搭配。
    – user6065
    Dec 14, 2014 at 21:56
  • re edited question (6h ago)负责 can be used as transitive verb, _______ can be left void,thus 公司负责这件事 seems possible (although 负责+verb is more common)or with object put in front 这件事公司负责, i。e。no need for preposition 被 or 由。现代汉语词典 has 负责后勤工作,iciba:他负责学校工作 (or must the object be 工作?)
    – user6065
    Dec 15, 2014 at 6:04

6 Answers 6


the problem may be that the A被B C and A由B C are superficially similar but grammatically completely different. A由... seems like more a topic-comment structure for me, with A being the topic and "由B C" being the comment about the topic, not anything performed on the topic. 被 is conceptually linked to A - it is A having something done to it - whereas 由 is linked to B and C, and A is separate: again, a lot like topic/comment.

for example:

  • 这个问题被他解决了. : "this problem was solved by him." straight up passive.
  • 这个问题由他(来)解决 :(as for) this problem, (it should be) him to solve it.

"这个问题由他解决了" completely fails the Google test, i.e. there's not a single usage example on the Internet, even though 被 is 100% ok. This may be because the 由 construction is an example of a different kind of Chinese grammar structure, and therefore 由 is not like 叫/让/other stand-ins for 被.

  • Your intuition is not bad. Here is my explanation that supports it: "由BC" means "is up to B to C". That is why one cannot say "这个问题由他解决了".
    – user21820
    Jan 15, 2022 at 16:54

I'm not sure how your Chinese level is like now, but it's always useful to know that 被 (A) B isn't the counterpart of be B-ed (by A), because Chinese language lacks the notion of passive.

The true meaning of 被 A B construction is, literally receive A('s) B-ing, or more practically let A do B to oneself. There are two more things I have to explain about the phrase, that is:

  1. It conveys a connotation of "done unexpectedly", in most cases, "unwelcome".

    我的蛋糕都被他吃了! I got all my cake eaten by him!

  2. It always requires verbs to be perfective (~ become meaningful by the end of the action), because what's important is the result.

    NG 不要被他跑! (???)
    OK 不要被他跑了! Don't let him run away (from us)!
    OK 不要被他跑掉! (same as above)

Back to your question, why you can't use 被 here is mostly because it trespasses #2. The bare verb 负责 isn't perfective by its own (it has effect while the responsibility is taken). But it doesn't seem to make sense even when you change it to perfect, either: 这件事被公司负责了 could be valid only in some situation that, say, you're dying to take charge of something for some reason, but it ends up the company has taken it.

On the other hand, 由 A B is a formal expression also partially corresponds to passive in English, literally reports B realizes from/via A, or be B-ed by A with its initiative.

  • @broccoli forest, concerning "C. l. lacks the notion of passive",Chinese grammars generally have sections titled "被"字句 with explanations using the term 被动/passive。 "外国人实用汉语语法"505页:Chinese has the passive preposition (被动介词)"被"。 "图示汉语语法"145页:。。。"被"。。。,用来表示被动的一种句式 (passiveness)。 "实用现代汉语语法"753-761页 starts with:一、什么叫"被"子句? 有的句子,在谓语动词前有一个表示被动(passive)意义的介词"被"或由"被"组成的介词短语作状语,这种句子叫"被"字句。 Chinese A Comprehensive Grammar Ch。13 The Passive Voice and 被 Constructions。 13。1 Three Forms of Passive (a) notional passive (no passive marker) (b)formal passive (passive marker 被)(c)lexical passive (e。g。问题得到了解决)。
    – user6065
    Dec 14, 2014 at 10:00
  • 所谓汉语“被字句”是“被动”这一说法是根据西方语言里面的大多数被动句可以用“被字句”翻译到汉语而来的,其实“被字句”本身在汉语里只不过是致使句式之一。汉语虽然没有纯粹的被动句式,致使句式倒挺发达,尤其是那个无人不晓的“把字句”。我觉得,给外国人教“被字句是被动”是一种应付,特别是中级以上,早晚会这样露出马脚的。 Dec 14, 2014 at 10:42
  • 呀,把字句并不是致使句啊~。肯定我又跟什么搞混了。 @user3306356 Well, I was really at pains to put it into English, and only failed to come up with a causative-wise translation. Do you have any idea? :) Dec 14, 2014 at 13:47
  • My pleasure :D But I'd really like to know if there's a way to make it sound more causative... Dec 14, 2014 at 14:27
  • @S.Rhee Sorry my first comment was intended for you, but you're not a native Chinese speaker, right? What I meant was 被字句 is grammatically just a causative "pretending passive", so Chinese learners eventually should know that Chinese has no real passive, and learn to use its alternatives. Dec 14, 2014 at 14:28
  1. If you want to emphasize the responsibility, 由______负责。

由 has the meaning of 原由(reason).

Some bad things may caused by 公司, or it is none business of the person, but 公司 hope to take responsibility. choose 由.

  1. If you want to emphasize the source or origin, 由 他 开始 count off. scandal 由 华尔街日报 report

In other situations, you can choose 被

这件事 被 公司解决。

  • 你的意思是也可以用‘被’吗??在这个句子里‘被’不错误的?
    – Pedroski
    Dec 14, 2014 at 0:55
  • 1
    No, In my four examples。 1.由___负责 cannot be changed by 被。 2.由 他 开始 报数can be changed by 从。 3.The scandal 由 Wall Street reported. can change by 被. 4.这件事被公司解决。————强调事情的结果。 这件事由公司解决。————强调事情责任。Actually, it is short for 这件事 由 公司(负责)to solve.
    – Derek Liu
    Dec 14, 2014 at 1:17
  • Basically, 由 has some combination. 由John负责to plot。由Washington 率领的 the whole colonial forces。 由 Jobs 引起的 revolution of smart phone。
    – Derek Liu
    Dec 14, 2014 at 1:28
  • There is a very good reason for not choosing 被。 究竟为什么用"被"呢?请比较"汉语水平考试词典": 被(介)[义2]引进动作的发出者(施事)(used in a passive sentence to introduce the agent):他~雨淋湿了|衣服~香烟头烧了一个洞。
    – user6065
    Dec 14, 2014 at 7:48
  • Most of passive sentence we should use 被。由 is a rare condition。
    – Derek Liu
    Dec 14, 2014 at 9:53

被 has historically only been used for unwanted or negative actions, like 他被杀了. This is because 被 also means 遭遇 or catastrophe in general.

Even if modern usage permits 被 as a general passive marker, 由 is more adequate for the reason given above. It is more neutral.

  • 被 is not necessarily bad: 我被歌颂了。我被感动了。我被上帝选中了。 Dec 15, 2014 at 5:27

In semantic, the pattern of sentence with "you"(由) directs to the agent, expresses the meaning of process and behavior. While the pattern of sentence with "bei" directs to the patient, expresses the meaning of consequence and action.--A Comparison of Two Patterns of Sentences with "you"(由) and "bei"(被)

"这件事 _______ 公司负责。" expresses the action, so we should choose "由".

"这件事 _______ 公司负责了。" expresses the consequence, so we should choose "被".

This is a picture from the article A Comparison of Two Patterns of Sentences with "you"(由) and "bei"(被), it show us the difference between the pattern of sentence with "由" and the pattern of sentence with "被". the difference between the pattern of sentence with "由" and the pattern of sentence with "被"

Here is an English Version that I tried to translate. the difference between the pattern of sentence with "由" and the pattern of sentence with "被"

  • Thanks! The link is currently broken unfortunately. Could you explain why 由 has a perfect tense function, while 被 a future tense function in your English version of the table? According to the answers above, 被 is the one with the perfective aspect
    – cd98
    Feb 23, 2018 at 2:27
  • Thanks. Any chance that you can share the PDF? I cannot access it. Sep 24, 2020 at 4:24

Has it something to do with word: 来由? I mean 来由 is a "reason, a cause". So whenever you put Object(Obj) inside this "parenthesis" 由Obj来 you emphasise the cause of the action? or smth?

So as I think as an example:


Literally: "From me comes something"

So the meaning of 由Obj来 is "up to" or "It's up to (it/her/him) to do something"

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