As far as I know, 所 has the following meanings:

  • a place, as in 派出所 (police office).
  • a counter, as in 一所科學中心 (a science center).
  • a passive voice indicator that pairs up with 被(為), as in 被(為)愛所糾纏 (tangled by love).
  • a conjunction, as in 所熟悉的環境 (environment that I am familiar with).

EDIT: as Master Sparkles mentioned in the comments, 所 in the third and fourth context above also intensifies the association between the preceding noun and the verb that follows it.

However, in the following sentence,


Hopefully, my answer can be of some help/contribution.

none of the above meanings is appropriate. Besides, I thought that the sentence would be the same without 所, as in,


As such, what is the meaning of 所 in the "有所..." construct? Or is it simply redundant?

Thanks in advance!

  • 所 isn't a passive indicator by itself - in your example above it associates forward with the verb, not backward with the 被 . Commented May 14, 2015 at 22:21
  • @MasterSparkles by "example" do you mean 被愛所糾纏 or 有所幫助? The former is an example for pairing (associate backward) with 被, and the later is an example of forward association with the verb. Commented May 15, 2015 at 0:26
  • the former - I disagree that 所 "belongs" with 被 , I think it "belongs" with the verb that follows i.e. 纠缠 Commented May 15, 2015 at 0:27
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    I see X所Y as intensifying the association between a noun X and the verb Y. For example, 据我所知 = "according to that which I know", or "[我]所熟悉的环境" = "that environment which I'm familiar with." In this case, the 所 in 被爱所纠缠 emphasizes the fact that it is love that I find myself entangled in: or in active voice, "it is love that entangles me." Commented May 15, 2015 at 0:50
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    also think about the difference between 不被他见到 and 不被他所见到 - again to me the version with 所 serves to emphasize the association between 见到 and 他 , rather than indicate any passive sense. I was just thinking about 所 the other day so glad you asked the question :-) Commented May 15, 2015 at 0:57

3 Answers 3


As you had said, 所 is not redundant. But to me, "有帮助" and "有所帮助" doesn't have that much differences, especially when you are in an oral conversation with Chinese people.

As for your explanation for "有所謂", the translation for "这件案子有所谓" is "This case matters." You are correct. But I don't think that it has the meaning of "has something that it says". Yes, "謂 = 說". However, the literal meaning of this is not strong when you say "有所谓". When hearing about "有所谓", please just take it as "matters", and just forget about its literal meaning.

  • Yeah, that's what I thought. But I think it's worth noting what the literal meaning is and how this meaning derived from it. Commented May 13, 2015 at 16:01
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    谓 has a classical meaning - 意义 , for example 夫是之谓乎 - that probably carries over into the modern 无所谓 (classical analogue to which is 无谓, which means "meaningless" not "without speech"). I'm kind of curious whether 有所谓 isn't just some cute modern twist on 无所谓 ? Commented May 14, 2015 at 22:34
  • @MasterSparkles Good point. I can't really find a trusted source which explains the etymology of 有所謂 though. Thanks for sharing! Commented May 15, 2015 at 0:23

I found the answer myself but thought it might be helpful to others.

Technically, 所 is not redundant; in this construct, it precedes a verb to refer to the object being acted upon by the verb. Nonetheless, in the example, 所 may be optional because each of 幫助 and 貢獻 can be a noun or a verb.

Thus, the sentence has different literal translation with 所

希望我的回答能有所幫助(的事物)。(幫助 as a verb)

Hopefully, my answer can have something that it has helped.

and without 所

希望我的回答能有幫助。(幫助 as a noun)

Hopefully, my answer can have some help.

but may imply the same meaning of being helpful.

Other examples of this usage

  • 有所謂

謂 = 說. This phrase literally means "have something that it says", and it implies that the subject matters.


as Master Sparkles suggested, 謂 also has a classical meaning of 意義, and in this context it would be translated as "have something that it means", or simply "it means something". Since I can't find a trusted source to disambiguate at the moment, I will leave both explanations here.

For example,


This case matters (has something that it says).

  • 各取所需

需 = 需要. This idiom/chengyu means that each person takes what he or she needs.

For example,


To survive, each of us should take what he or she needs.

  • 所向無敵

敵 = 抵擋. This idiom/chengyu literally means that the direction in which power (or whatever the subject is) is applied cannot be blocked, and it implies that the subject has overwhelming power.

For example,


This spear is unstoppable (penetrates through anything).


所 does not mean something here. It is used in Classical Chinese to clarify that the sentence is passive. Then, it is used in Modern Chinese to look formal.

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    Thanks for adding! This sounds like a reasonable explanation! Commented May 16, 2015 at 9:54

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