Somebody showed me a group picture that included their face, and asked me “你可以找到我嘛”. After replying I asked why 嘛 is used instead of 吗 for this question. My Chinese is not great and my Chinese friend isn't great at explaining Chinese grammar to me in English, but they did say 语气词. Which, as I understand it, names this grammar construct.

What is 语气词? Why is it used here? How do I use it?

Clarification; this was a text message conversation

  • It's very strange the person ask you by speaking while you describe his question by writing. Possibly an ending neutral tone without too much meaning, as mentioned by user3306356, there isn't too much difference between "Can you find me?" and "See if you can find me!" Jun 13, 2019 at 11:32
  • see previous Q&A: chinese.stackexchange.com/search?q=%E5%98%9B
    – user6065
    Jun 13, 2019 at 11:41
  • @炸鱼薯条德里克 sorry, I didn't make it clear, she asked me in a text message conversation. It wasn't spoken. Jun 13, 2019 at 15:05

3 Answers 3


Check out ABC's definition of 嘛:

1 (used to persuade sb. to do sth.)

来嘛, 不要太任性。
Lái ma, bụ̀yào tài rènxìng.
Come on, don't be so stubborn.

2 (used to emphasize the obvious)

Shì Xīngqīrì ma. Bàngōngshì dāngrán guān le.
It's Sunday. Of course offices are closed.

So here 嘛, despite it's similar pronunciation, has very different usage to 吗. It is mostly used in persuasion or to emphasize something that is obvious.

Taking your sentence if it had been 吗 instead we would have something like:

  • 你可以找到我吗?
  • Can you find me?

but your sentence: 你可以找到我嘛 works out to something more like:

  • See if you can find me!
  • Or Simply a non-standard written form Jun 13, 2019 at 11:25
  • I feel like it doesn't matter nowadays. It is just like in english you can write hmm as well as hmmm Jun 14, 2019 at 14:39

Pinyin is a normal computer input method used very commonly in China. But it doesn’t contain any tone marks. So if you type “Ma” in this input method, these two words “嘛” and “吗” appear just at the same time. Sometimes, an interrogative sentence ended up by “嘛“ (instead of “吗”) is just a typo.

You should use “吗” on formal occassion.

(Native speaker.)


嘛has meaning of a little spoiled.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.