A: Can I borrow your novel? (我可以借你的小说吗?)
B: Sorry, I have already lent it to C. (对不起,我已经借给了C。)
B (option a): You can borrow the book once it's returned;
B (option b): You can borrow the book once C returns it to me.

Would you please help me translate point a) and b)?

Also, which structure is used more frequently in China? The active (option a) or passive (option b)? If both aren't used frequently, please tell me how Chinese people usually say it.

3 Answers 3


Interestingly, Chinese language don't use passive voice as explicitly as in English. Translating passive sentences to native Chinese has always been challenging.
One solution is to restore the omitted object, which means:

I can lend the book to you once it is returned by C.

However, if the subject cannot be deduced from the context (like, if B doesn't know who borrowed his book), some techniques should be used to make a "passive-less" clause:

(lit.) Once the book is returned, I can lend to you.

Such passive-less sentences are difficult to compare with English, but they are common in Chinese language:

(lit.) Cut down the tree, and the road can complete.
The road can be completed once the tree is cut down.

Note that "passive-less" means sentences without a passive "mark". In Modern Chinese, the passive mark is "被"(bei4).

P.S. I have found an article explaining the common form of translation from English to Chinese regarding passive sentences. Here are the synopsis:

Passive sentences in English have been widely used, far more than in Chinese. Therefore, their translations should vary depending on meanings:

  1. Translate into "judgement" sentences using "是":

Sign languages are (the languages that are) used by the deaf and dumb people.

  1. Translate with active voice instead of passive voice. If subject is unable to identify, you may need to add some "logical" subjects like "有人"(lit. there are somebody) or "别人"(lit. others):

(lit.)Need to stand, wait until someone invites you to sit can you sit down.
Stand until you're invited to sit.

  1. Translate into subject-less sentences, which are forbidden in English with a few exceptions, but quite common in Chinese:

(lit.)(If)Discover errors, must correct (them).
Errors must be corrected once discovered.

  1. Translate into passive sentences, as what you're familiar with.

a) 你可以在它被归还的时候借。
b) 当C把书还给我时,你就可以借了。

We don't normally use passive in such case, if there is only one choice between a) and b), I would choose b). But I think you should actively lend it to B once the book is returned since B may not know when it will be returned to you. So I would say:

I can lend the book to you once it returned by C.

  • Thank you. But I'm sorry because I'm going to have to ask you again. What's the use of 在 in that sentence of yours (我可以在C把书还我之后就借给你。)?
    – Agnes
    Jul 29, 2018 at 12:18
  • 在 prep. 表示时间、处所、范围等, at; in. Here 在C把书还我之后 means at the time that after C return the book to me. Jul 29, 2018 at 12:34
  • With pleasure :) Jul 29, 2018 at 14:36

If you want to express it naturally, you can say:


Several words are omitted in this sentence. The following sentence is complete:


Generally speaking, passive sentences are not widely used in Chinese. When using passive sentences, markers are often omitted, Sometimes this makes it difficult to judge whether a sentence is active or passive, such as the following sentence:


This sentence is also omitted, you can complete it as follows:


You can also complete it like this:


These sentences are colloquial. If you are going to take a Chinese test, you are advised to use the sentences in the previous answers.

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