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Jennifer’s grammar lecture – How do we use “吧?” (Intermediate)

Oct. 13, 2010

Key Learning Points: Using "吧" in Mandarin

Some students have difficulty understanding how to use "吧." This Mandarin lesson is designed to foster a clearer understanding of how "吧" should be used. We will break down the details of how "吧" functions both as an auxiliary word and as a noun.

Now, let's begin our Mandarin lesson!

1. Used as an auxiliary word

When "吧" is used as an auxiliary word (pronounced with the neutral tone), it connotes four modes of expression:

(1) Used at the end of imperative sentences to indicate suggestion, request, command and so on.

Examples:

Wǒmen qù chīfàn ba!
我们       去 吃饭 吧!(Suggestion)

 

Let's go for dinner!

Qǐng bāngbang wǒ ba!
请     帮帮           我吧!(Request)

 

Please do me a favor!

Wǒmen xiànzài xué xià yíkè ba!
我们       现在     学  下 一课吧!(Command)

 

Let's start the next lesson now!

(2) Used at the end of questions to indicate speculation and deduction contrasting with simple, straightforward inquiries.

Examples:

Nǐ hěn máng ba?
你 很   忙      吧?(Speculation)

 

You are busy, aren't you?

Nǐ Zhōngwén shuō de búcuò, jīngcháng shàng hànyǔkè ba?
你 中文         说      得   不错,经常             上    汉语课   吧?(Deduction)

 

You speak Mandarin well. You often take Mandarin lessons, don't you?

(3) Used at the end of sentences to indicate acceptance or concurrence.

Examples:

Hǎoba, wǒ jiù mǎi zhège le.
好吧, 我 就 买  这个   了。(Concurrence)

 

Okay, I'll buy this one.

Nǐ xiǎng qù jiù qù ba!
你 想    去   就去 吧!(Acceptance)

 

If that's what you want, do as you wish.

(4) Used in sentences to show pauses.

Examples:

Jǔ ge lì ba, wǒ yǒu gè Měiguó de xuéshēng shàngkè de shíhou jiù hěn jījí.
举 个例吧,我 有 个 美国     的 学生          上课        的 时候    就 很积极。

 

For example, an American student of mine is very active during our Mandarin lessons.

Piányi de ba, zhìliang bùxíng; hǎo de ba, yòu mǎi bù qǐ.
便宜    的吧,质量     不行;    好  的   吧,又   买   不起。

 

The cheaper one is of poorer quality, but I can't afford the better one.

2. Used as a noun

"吧" can also be used as a noun (pronounced with the first tone), it was translated from the English word "bar" according to their similar pronunciations. It is most often used in names for places of leisure activity. For example, "网吧" (wǎngbā) Internet cafe, "咖啡吧" (cāfēibā) Cafe, "迪吧" (díbā) DISCO, "书吧" (shūbā) book store and so on. In fact, as a noun, "吧" did not come into common use until after English became widely spoken in China.

This concludes the Mandarin lesson on "吧." Do you understand how to use this particle now? If you have any further questions, feel free to ask at https://answers.echineselearning.com/ or email me at jennifer.zhu@echineselearning.com.  I will be more than happy to help.

New words in this Mandarin lesson:

积极 (jījí): adj. active

 

质量 (zhìliang): n. quality

 

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Comments

Thank you for your complete answer.

“吧” indicates a sort of slight request in the sentence “我就不去了吧.” I think you can see this sentence also showed that the speaker was not completely sure about his/her decision.

thanks!

great post as usual!

Thank you Jennifer! Your Mandarin lesson helped me greatly! But, there’s a sentence that puzzles me – 我就不去了吧. What does “吧” indicate, here?

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