I am trying to better understand the use of 吧 in a sentence where I am asking a question. For example, could the particle be used in the following way:

这是你的咖啡吧?

My understanding is that the particle would imply that the person asking the question already assumes that the coffee belongs to the person he is asking, and so the question is not entirely open-ended. Something like, "This is your coffee, right?"

Is my understanding correct here? Also, does this construction affect the politeness of the phrasing?

  • 1
    cf."外国人实用汉语语法"几个语气助词的用法3。"吧"(3)"吧"可用在陈述句末尾,表示说话人对某事有估计,但不能完全肯定。这时句末常用问号,语气比较缓和。例如:那个钟停了吧?您大概望了吧?他们不来了吧?这是你的吧? – user6065 Jan 15 '16 at 17:18
  • Basically, correct as far as this very example is concerned. – Drunken Master Jan 15 '16 at 18:24
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes is used at the end of a question when you already assume the statement to be true.

(modal particle indicating suggestion or surmise)

Whereas had you ended the question with ma (t: 嗎, s: 吗) then it is just a question, no assumption behind it, you are asking because you honestly have no clue.

References: http://cdict.net/?q=吧,嗎

As for the politeness level of 吧, while it is certainly non-formal, it is not inherently impolite. Even in English, This is yours, right? is not necessarily offensive or impolite, probably depends on the situation. For example

  • positive: someone may have been looking for their misplaced coffee and would be delighted to hear you bring their coffee and say This is yours, right?
  • negative: On the other hand if I point to an unwanted piece of litter on the ground and say to you This is yours, right?, I'm accusing you of being a litterbug, so it is a slightly different story.

Recommendation

It's not particularly impolite, but if for some reason conveying that you assume something, will somehow come across as rudeness on your part, then instead of ba, use ma (t: 嗎, s: 吗)

I think you are right: for more

这是你的咖啡吧?More casual tone,used between friends.here "吧" can be replaced with "咯"

这是你的咖啡吗?maybe usually,"吗” used between 2 strangers

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