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假如借走回家看,则每本每天2分钱,挑好书后交给摊主,摊主仔细地将租书人的姓名、地址和所借小人书的书名登记在本子上,收了租金就可以拿走了,...

This is from the Standard Course Book of HSK5, section 20. What is the difference between 所 and 被 in passive voice? Some examples:

地址和所借小人书的书名登记在本子上

地址和被借小人书的书名登记在本子上

我的表所偷了

我的表被偷了

我们的汽车尾巴所撞坏了

我们的汽车尾巴被撞坏了

所见即所得

被见即被得

你所用的电脑

你被用的电脑

不知所云

不知被云

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  • 為...所 can also be used to express passive voice, e.g. 為人所欺。
    – joehua
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 13:18

3 Answers 3

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You have an incorrect idea of 所. It is not used to express passive. Only 被 and 给 can be used to express passive.

人偷了 (The book was stolen by someone.)

狼吃了 (The goat was eaten by a wolf.)

The grammatical function of 所 is this: it is used before a transitive verb, so that the phrase containing the verb can be used as a modifier in a noun phrase, and the modified noun is the object of the verb.

Example 1: 我所关注的问题. Here 关注 is a transitive verb, to focus on some issue. The phrase means "the issues which I focus on." The bold part corresponds to the modifier 我所关注的. Notice that 所 is added before the verb 关注. In this usage 所 is optional: 我关注的问题 is also ok, but adding 所 is considered more appropriate in formal writing.

Example 2: 购买机票所需的费用. Here 需 is a transitive verb, to need something. Unlike the above example, 购买机票 is not the subject of 需, but rather the reason or purpose of 需. The phrase means "the fee which is needed in order to buy a flight ticket." Here 所 is not optional. The phrase 购买机票需的费用 is unnatural. It becomes more acceptable if 需 is replaced with a two-syllable verb like 需要. Still, adding 所 sounds more formal.

We now look at your sentences. We will start from the simple ones, and then go to the first one which is more complex than others.

不知所云 vs 不知被云

This is a fixed idiom, therefore only 不知所云 can be used. Grammatically it is 不(adverb, negation) + 知 (verb, to understand) + 所云 (object of 知, "what is said"). 所云 is short for 所云的话, the word that is said, you can see it is the same as the first example above. We usually don't say (some sentence) 被说了, hence 不知被说 is unnatural.

你所用的电脑 vs 你被用的电脑

你所用的电脑, this is also the same as the first example above. 你被用的电脑 is ungrammatical because in 被-sentence, the logical subject must come after 被. You need at least 被你用过的电脑.

所见即所得 vs 被见即被得

This is again an idiom, so only 所见即所得 is used. 所见 and 所得 are short for 所见(的东西) and 所得(的东西), and the analysis is the same that for 不知所云.

我的表所偷了 vs 我的表被偷了; 我们的汽车尾巴所撞坏了 vs 我们的汽车尾巴被撞坏了

In both these pairs, only 被 can be used. The reason is that the verb is not used as part of a modifier phrase. 偷 and 撞 are simply events that occurred to the syntactic subject (表, 汽车) of the sentences.

地址和所借小人书的书名登记在本子上 vs 地址和被借小人书的书名登记在本子上

This pair involves extra complications, which is why I leave it to the end.

In the above examples "我所关注的问题", "你所用的电脑", the subject of the verb comes immediately before 所. This is not the case here: the subject of 借 is 租书人, which is separated from 所 by extra elements 姓名 and 地址.

This creates an ambiguity in the scope of 和. One way to interpret "和" here is that it only covers 姓名, 地址, 书名, all under 租书人, hence the phrase means 租书人的姓名 + 租书人的地址 + 租书人所借的小人书的书名. If we follow the same logic as above, we would conclude that 所 cannot be replaced by 被 here. Indeed, if we remove 姓名、地址, then 租书人被借小人书的书名 is not grammatical.

However, we can also interpret "和" as conjoining "租书人的姓名、地址" and "所借小人书的书名". In this case "所借小人书的书名" is no longer under "租书人", but parallel with it. Hence 被借 also becomes acceptable, understood as omitting the logical subject after 被. In fact, if we slightly modify the phrase to "租书人的姓名、地址和被借去的小人书的书名" then it becomes perfectly acceptable.

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  • You said "Only 被 and 给 can be used to express passive." However I think that in informal speech 让 and 叫 can also be used for passive constructions. Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 10:13
  • Yes that's more colloquial. Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 12:32
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    It is not a guarantee, but I find that 所 almost always corresponds to english "which" in this sense. For example 我所認識的人 "The people which I know." Or the idiom above 不知所云 "not understand that which was said." (to be clear I am not correcting your translation above, I just think this idea can be very helpful to learners trying to differentiate from passive (◐‿◑)
    – zagrycha
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 2:10
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Just looking at the first two phrases:

These two are both imperatives, or instructions, for a person. Neither a "location", nor a "title" can 登记自己在本子上. People can actively 登记什么东西在本子上.

(把)地址和书名登记在本子上.
Enter the location and title in the notebook.

(把)地址和所(被)借小人书的书名登记在本子上.
Enter the location and title of the book which you are borrowing in the notebook.

(把)地址和被借小人书的书名登记在本子上.
Enter the location and and title of the book which has been borrowed in the notebook.

Although neither "location" nor "title" are active, these phrases can't be qualified as "passive" because they are instructions for people. They say:

(You should/must) enter the location and title of the comic in the notebook.

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所 is not a "passive voice" maker. When used before a verb, it refers to the recipient of the act indicated by the verb (汉典 - 所: 用在动词前,代表接受动作的事物). In the paragraph below,

  • "摊主仔细地将租书人的姓名、地址和所小人的书名登记在本子上..." - "the stand owner carefully records down the "book renter's" name, address, and the name of the book "he/she" borrowed, on the recording book....".

the verb is "借", the act is "借书", and the recipient of the act is the book renter (租书人). It can be rephrased as:

  • "摊主仔细地将租书人的姓名、地址和他/她所借小人书的书名登记在本子上...". (他/她 represents 租书人)

If we want to make the passive voice, the paragraph can be modified to:

  • "摊主仔细地将租书人的姓名、地址和被租书人所借小人书的书名登记在本子上...". (被 is necessary for making the passive voice. - used before a verb or a V-C construction together with 被 or 为 to indicate the passive voice)

And, the above can be simplified to:

  • "摊主仔细地将租书人的姓名、地址和借小人书的书名登记在本子上...".- "the stand owner carefully records down the "book renter's" name, address, and the name of the book been borrowed, on the recording book....".

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