I recently took a Chinese test on EasyMandarin website. One of the question is the following:


They ask me to pick up a word that is suitable to the blank area, and I picked up 拿.

However, the correct answer was 请. I found it sounds a better term.

However, is 拿 also suitable here? I meant the sentence is "Tomorrow evening I would take you to eat dinner.".

Is 拿 only used to take a "thing", or can I use it also to take "person"?

  • 1
    "take you to" could be 带你到, here 带你去吃饭 might be possible
    – user6065
    Aug 18, 2017 at 8:58
  • note: 拿下 put (sb.) under arrest,捉拿 capture (a criminal)
    – user6065
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:03
  • 1
    @Blaszard, 拿小孩 is possible but with different meaning, eg 我拿小孩没办法。If you want to express holding a baby into your arms, then better use 抱小孩. I never heard 拿小孩 being used in this sense. And 拿人 is also possible but it means "capture someone". If you change the sentence as 明天晚上我拿你‘是问’ or ‘出气’(instead of 吃饭),it will make perfect sense. In fact, 拿 has been widely extended in meaning rather than merely by hand. Let's say, 我拿他没有办法;拿不准;拿不定主意;If you look into a dictionary, you will get many of them.
    – dan
    Aug 18, 2017 at 12:44
  • @dan Thank you for the follow-ups!
    – Blaszard
    Aug 18, 2017 at 13:09

3 Answers 3


I cannot imagine a situation where "拿" would take a human object. Daniel has already explained the etymology of the character, however "拿" not only takes physical objects, but can also be used metaphorically such as in the phrase "拿主意" (to brainstorm), which literally translated means "to grab ideas".

I'd also like to point out that the main reason "拿" would not fit into that sentence is because it cannot be used in the same way "take" would be used in english. It should only be used in a picking-up-and-holding kind of way.

Example sentences that cannot take (heh) "拿"

  1. I will take the car to work. (you aren't picking up the car)
  2. I will take a break. (can't really pick up a "break", either)

As a general rule of thumb, anything too big to pick up shouldn't use 拿.


To use the word "拿" in that sentence would actually be quite comical. Since "拿" also means "with" as in "to use", it would actually mean "Tomorrow night I will use you to eat dinner". In fact, in the above situation, even if the object was not human, you shouldn't use "拿" at all.

Even if you wished to say: "I will take my purse to dinner", opt for something like "帶", which means "to bring". Otherwise people people might misunderstand it as you are literally using your purse to eat your food.

  • @Blaszard you're welcome! glad to help
    – as4s4hetic
    Aug 18, 2017 at 12:26
  • 拿 can mean 'catch' or 'arrest', but it has to be in a compound word. For example: 揖拿尋案 (arrest someone for the crime); 擒拿某人 (catch someone); 全部拿下 (arrest them all)
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:43

Yes, 拿 take a thing BY HAND (please look at the glyph, a box on a hand, that is to say, you take a box, 一个 “合” box 放在 “手” 上面), generally, we don't take a man, right?

请 = invite. you can check ancient glyph at http://www.zdic.net , some characters are Pictographic characters (象形字), you can check ancient glyph of them, some characters are combinations of Pictographic characters (会义字), and others are combinations with phonetic + Pictographic (形声字, one part is phonetic, others are 会义 or 象形).

  • How would you explain the common phrase "拿主意"?
    – as4s4hetic
    Aug 18, 2017 at 8:16
  • So if it is a baby, can I use 拿? (even though something like 抱 may be more appropriate)?
    – Blaszard
    Aug 18, 2017 at 8:20
  • 1
    拿主意 means show me an idea, just like you have a solution in your hand. All Chinese can understand 拿 a baby, but 抱 implies more details about it, e.g. more safe (you take the baby with 2 hands around him). Aug 18, 2017 at 8:27


The above sentence means that in order to express my gratitude, I treat you to dinner.

The object after most is thing in Chinese language. If you use the person as an object, it will be very rude.

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