Beginner Level Grammar: Using 吧 in Chinese

“吧” (ba) is one of the most common sentence particles in Chinese.

It has a number of different uses, some are extremely useful to know.

There’s a notion in Chinese that one shouldn’t be too direct or upfront.

Using “吧” is an easy way to avoid placing the listener in an uncomfortable situation.

The particle “吧” is placed at the end of sentences, to either indicate what you’re saying is a suggestion and by no means a command, or simply to soften your speech, or to concede.

Here is a breakdown of what we’ll be learning today.

How to use 吧 - Lex

How to use 吧 #1 – For Suggestions & Requests

How to use 吧 #2 – For Softening Speech

How to use 吧 #3 – For Indicating a Tone of Approval

How to use 吧 #4 – For Expressing Estimation

How to use 吧 #5 – For Asking for Consent or Confirmation

How to use 吧 #6 – In Question Tags

How to use 吧 #7 – In the Middle of Sentences

Chinese Grammar Bank – FAQ’s

Using 吧 – For Suggestions, Requests or Instructions

“吧” at the end of imperative sentences is to soften your suggestion, request or instruction. This makes the speaker seem less direct and bossy. 

Command + 吧

Suggestions

This use of 吧 is very similar to how in English we would use “let’s”. 

  • 咱们去吃饭吧。
  • zánmen qù chīfàn ba.
  • Let’s go to dinner.
  • 我们走吧。
  • wǒmen zǒu ba.
  • Let’s go.
  • 帮帮我吧。
  • bāng bāng wǒ ba.
  • Help me, would you.

Requests

  • 给我两个吧。
  • gěi wǒ liǎng gè ba.
  • Give me two.
  • 天太晚了,我们明天再去跑步吧。
  • tiān tài wǎnle, wǒmen míngtiān zài qù pǎobù ba.
  • It’s too late, let’s go for a run tomorrow.

Instructions

  • 你去吧。
  • nǐ qù ba.
  • You go ahead.
  • 你在这儿待着吧,我去就好。
  • nǐ zài zhè’er dàizhuó ba, wǒ qùjiù hǎo.
  • Just stay here, I’ll be fine.

Using 吧 – For Softening Speech

The particle “吧” is also used to soften the feel of a sentence. This is particularly useful when you need to make your sentence more polite, gentler or less forceful.

Statement + 吧

  • 快点吧。
  • kuài diǎn ba.
  • Hurry up.
  • 太贵了吧,我不买了。
  • tài guìle ba, wǒ bú mǎile.
  • It’s too expensive, I’m not buying that.
  • 算了吧。
  • suànle ba.
  • Forget it.

Indicating a Tone of Approval or Agreement with 吧

“吧” can be used to show that you accept or agree to something. You may not actually want to accept or agree to it, but for some reason you make a compromise.

Statement + 吧

  • 行吧,我答应你。
  • xíng ba, wǒ dāyìng nǐ.
  • Okay, I promise you.
  • 就这样做吧,没有其它更好地办法了。
  • jiù zhèyàng zuò ba, méiyǒu qítā gèng hǎo de bànfǎle.
  • Just do it, there is no better way.
  • 你想去就去吧。
  • nǐ xiǎng qùjiù qù ba.
  • If you want to go, then go.
  • 好吧,现在去吃饭。
  • hǎo ba, xiànzài qù chīfàn.
  • Okay, I’ll go to dinner now.
    • (You would’ve liked to finish what you were doing first but ok, you’ll go eat).

Expressing Estimation or Supposition with 吧

“吧” (ba) can be used at the end of declarative sentences to make the tone uncertain. The tone would be affirmative when “吧” is dropped. 

  • 这么晚了,也许他不来了吧。
  • zhème wǎnle, yěxǔ tā bù láile ba.
  • It’s so late, maybe he won’t come.
  • 明天他就走了吧。
  • míngtiān tā jiù zǒule ba.
  • He will leave tomorrow.
  • 你自己总该知道照顾自己吧。
  • nǐ zìjǐ zǒng gāi zhīdào zhàogù zìjǐ ba.
  • You should always know to take care of yourself.

Asking for Consent or Confirmation with 吧

“吧” (ba) can also be put at the end of questions to ask for consent or confirmation with what is being, indicating both questioning and guessing, when the speaker has a certain estimation about something but he is not sure.

Sentence + 吧 ?

  • 你是王阿姨吧?
  • nǐ shì wáng āyí ba?
  • Are you Aunt Wang?
  • (not sure whether she is aunt Wang or not) 
  • 我还没告诉你开会的时间吧?
  • wǒ hái méi gàosù nǐ kāihuì de shíjiān ba?
  • I haven’t told you the time of the meeting yet?
  • 这是你儿子吧? 不是,是我哥哥的孩子。
  • zhè shì nǐ érzi ba? Bùshì, shì wǒ gēgē de háizi.
  • Is this your son? No, it’s my brother’s child.
  • 这些问题不难吧? 有点儿难
  • zhèxiē wèntí bù nán ba? Yǒudiǎn er nán
  • These questions are not difficult, right? A bit difficult

Sometimes, “吧” (ba) in a question usually shows that you’re expecting a positive answer.

你 没 事 吧?(expected answer) = 没事儿。

Using 吧 in Question Tags

“吧” can be used to form question tags, asking for consent, permission or confirmation.

The common expressions include “是吧 (shì ba)”, “好吧 (hǎo ba)”, “对吧 (duì ba)”, “行吧 (xíng ba)”, “可以吧 (kěyǐ ba)”, etc.

Sentence + 是吧/好吧/对吧/行吧/ 可以吧?

  • 你来自美国,对吧?
  • nǐ láizì měiguó, duì ba?
  • You are from the United States, right?
  • 你明天来,好吧?
  • nǐ míngtiān lái, hǎo ba?
  • You come tomorrow, okay?
  • 我用下你的笔,可以吧?
  • wǒ yòng xià nǐ de bǐ, kěyǐ ba?
  • I use your pen, okay?

Using 吧 – Can be Used in the Middle of Sentences

Sometimes 吧 can be placed in the middle of a sentence to make a pause, indicating assumption or citing or concession.

Here are some example sentences:

ASSUMPTION

  • 这件事我跟她说吧,不好;不跟她说吧,也不好。
  • zhè jiàn shì wǒ gēn tā shuō ba, bù hǎo; bù gēn tā shuō ba, yě bù hǎo.
  • I’ll tell her about this, it’s not good; not telling her, it’s not good either.

CITING

  • 就拿我自己说吧,我也是一步一步才走到今天的。
  • jiù ná wǒ zìjǐ shuō ba, wǒ yěshì yībù yībù cái zǒu dào jīntiān de.
  • Let me just say it, I also got here step by step.

CONCESSION

  • 就算你有理吧,也不能随便打人呀。
  • jiùsuàn nǐ yǒulǐ ba, yě bùnéng suíbiàn dǎ rén ya.
  • Even if you are reasonable, you can’t hit people casually.

Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to use 吧, and will start using it in your sentences!

Have a look at our other HOW TO guides:


HOW TO USE 吧 – FAQ’s

What is 吧 ?

吧 is one of the most common sentence particles in Chinese.

It is placed at the end of sentences, to either indicate what you’re saying is a suggestion and by no mean a command, or simply to soften your speech, or to concede.

How to use 吧 ?

Some sentence structures with 吧:

Command + 吧

Statement + 吧

Sentence + 吧 + ?

It is also used in question tags:

Sentence + 是吧/好吧/对吧/行吧/ 可以吧?

How to pronounce 吧 ?

吧 is pronounced ‘ba‘ and doesn’t have a tone.

What are some examples of a sentence with 吧?

我们走吧。wǒmen zǒu ba. | Let’s go.

给我两个吧。gěi wǒ liǎng gè ba. | Give me two.

算了吧。suànle ba. | Forget it.

行吧,我答应你。 xíng ba, wǒ dāyìng nǐ. | Okay, I promise you.

你是王阿姨吧? nǐ shì wáng āyí ba? | Are you Aunt Wang?

What are some other Chinese particles I should learn?

One of the most basic yet important Chinese particle to learn at the beginning of your studies is the particle of possession: 的 de.

You will see it in a lot of sentences, which make sense since its THE most common character of the Chinese language!

Do you have other articles like this one?

Yes we do!

You can have a look at our Chinese Grammar Bank for more articles like this one.

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