The 被 sentence is one of the most important and unique sentence patterns in Chinese language; it is regarded as one of the most complicated grammar structures by many Mandarin learners. To English speakers, 被 sentences resemble English passive voice.
This comparison has both advantages and disadvantages.
The similarity between 被 sentence structure and English passive voice helps English speakers to understand the structure and meaning of 被 sentences easily. However, because there are many rules about 被 sentences, it is also easy to make mistakes.
Therefore, learning and understanding the important differences between 被 sentences and English passive voice will be the best way to grasp this special Chinese sentence pattern.
被 Sentence Structure
被 sentences express passive voice in Chinese. The doer of an action is introduced by 被. The recipient of the verb is the subject of a 被 sentence, and the doer of the verb becomes the object.
The 被 sentence structure is:
Recipient + 被 + (doer) + verb.
He is respected by many people.
She believes her new book will be liked by readers.
Jack has been beaten by his father.
The garbage was thrown away by me.
If the doer is unknown or unnecessary to point out in a 被 sentence, just place 被 directly before the verb.
She was scared (by something).
The milk was all drank (by someone).
My wallet was stolen (by someone).
Special notes on using 被 sentences
1. The verb has to be transitive
A 被 sentence expresses that somebody or something gets a certain result under the influence of an action, so any verb that cannot be followed by an object (intransitive verbs), cannot be used in a 被 sentence either.
For example, some intransitive verbs that cannot be used in a 被 sentence:
去（go），来（come），swim (游泳)，睡觉（sleep）, 跳（jump） etc. ...
2. In oral Chinese, 被 can be replaced by 叫，让，or 给
BUT, “叫” and “让”, MUST be followed by a doer.
For example ( 叫 or 让 ):
The cup was broken by me.
The room was cleaned by the maid.
给 isn’t restricted by this rule (just like 被).
For example ( 给 ):
I was awakened by him.
3. In an affirmative 被 sentence,
if a verb is in past or perfect tense, this verb cannot be used alone; it must be followed by an auxiliary word which indicates completion, such as 了or 过.
Yesterday, my computer was stolen.
He has been criticized by his boss.
4. Negative form of 被 sentence:
a. If the verb is in present tense or future tense, place 不 before 被.
He is not respected in this company.
He won’t be scolded by his parents any more.
b. If the verb is in past tense, place 没有 or 没 before 被 (the auxiliary word 了 can not be used any more).
Yesterday, my mobile wasn’t stolen.
He was not criticized by his teacher.
c. If the verb is in perfect tense, place 没有or 没 before 被 ( 过 should be kept).
This room hasn’t been cleaned.
My computer hasn’t been touched by others.
I hope these instructions and examples give you a clear understanding of how to understand and use 被 sentences. If you need any further examples or explanations, leave your comments in the discussion!