Sign Up
4 Ways to Use 吧 (ba) in Mandarin Chinese

ASHLEY LABRIE

When you’re first learning Chinese, you learn that 吧 (ba) is used to turn a statement into a suggestion. Easy enough, right? But you’ll soon find that isn’t the only way that 吧 (ba) is used!

This tends to trip up many students along the learning journey, but don’t worry! To set the record straight, we’ve created this infographic listing out the main 4 ways that 吧 (ba) is used in Chinese. 

Right click and save the image to your device for easy reference, or download a printer-friendly pdf version here!



Alright, now let’s go ahead and check out each of these uses one by one!

#1: Used to indicate a suggestion

When you’re giving a suggestion, it’s highly advisable to add 吧 (ba) at the end of the sentence. Otherwise, it will sound more like an order than a friendly suggestion. 

You definitely don’t want to make that mistake with your superiors or in-laws!

Examples: 

  • 我们走吧!(wǒ men zǒu ba) - Let’s go! / Let’s leave!
  • 我们明天一起吃晚饭吧!(wǒ men míng tiān yì qǐ chī wǎn fàn ba) - Let’s have dinner together tomorrow!
  • 你跟他说一下吧。(nǐ gēn tā shuō yí xia ba) - Let him know. (polite)

Like in the third example above, you’ll also often see 吧 (ba) used with a phrase that softens the tone, like 一下 (yí xia) or doubling the verb, which makes it sound extra polite.

You can learn more about using 吧 (ba) for suggestions in our Beginner course with this lesson, and we cover softening the tone in Chinese in this lesson.

#2: Used to indicate agreement or approval 

This next use of 吧 (ba) communicates agreement or approval of something, but it also has a bit of reluctance to it. 

It is most often used following the words 好 (hǎo) - "OK" and 行 (xíng) - “alright”. Adding 吧 (ba) this way can be a bit similar to the tone of “fine” in English, though not quite as harsh. 

Again, this use of 吧 (ba) is something you’ll want to avoid saying to your boss! Just say 好的 (hǎo de) or 好 (hǎo) for “OK” and you’re golden!

Examples:

  • 好吧。明天也行。(hǎo ba míng tiān yě xíng) - OK. Tomorrow works too. / Fine. Tomorrow works too.
  • 行吧。我们只能这样了。(xíng ba wǒ men zhǐ néng zhè yàng le) - Alright. That’s all we can do. / Fine. That’s all we can do.

You can learn more about this 吧 (ba), and get a review of a few of the other uses from this post, in this lesson of our Upper Intermediate Course.

#3: Used to indicate uncertainty or guess about something

This is a VERY common use of 吧 (ba), which you’ll see a lot in questions as well as statements. This use of 吧 (ba) is used to communicate some level of uncertainty, or to make an educated guess about something. 

You can use it when you’re somewhat certain about something, but not 100% sure.

Examples:

  • 你会说普通话吧?(nǐ huì shuō pǔ tōng huà ba) - You speak Mandarin, right?
  • 他明年就要毕业了,对吧?(tā míng nián jiù yào bì yè le duì ba) - He is graduating next year, right?
  • 应该没什么问题吧。(yīng gāi méi shén me wèn tí ba) - There shouldn’t be any issues.

Check out this lesson to learn more about this use of 吧 (ba)

#4: Used to indicate a pause when weighing options/making comparisons  

Note: In this case, the “ba” is usually repeated twice.

  • 夏天去北京吧,天气会很热,冬天去北京吧,天气会很冷。(xià tiān qù běi jīng ba, tiān qì huì hěn rè, dōng tiān qù běi jīng ba, tiān qì huì hěn lěng) - If we go to Beijing in the summer, the weather will be hot. If we go to Beijing in the winter, the weather will be cold. 
  • 跟老板说吧,他会很不开心,不跟老板说吧,公司可能会出大事。(gēn lǎo bǎn shuō ba, tā huì hěn bù kāi xīn, bù gēn lǎo bǎn shuō ba, gōng sī kě néng huì chū dà shì) - If you tell the boss, he won’t be happy. If you don’t tell the boss, the company might run into some big issues.

You can learn more about this structure using 吧 (ba) in this lesson.

Ready to learn more?

That just about wraps up this post on the grammatical uses of 吧 (ba)

挺简单的吧 (tǐng jiǎn dān de ba)? - Pretty simple, right?

If you liked this post, you’ll LOVE our structured conversational courses! 


We guide you from Beginner all the way up to Upper Intermediate, covering the vocabulary and grammar concepts you’ll see in the real world, with tons of useful example sentences and clips of conversations with REAL native Chinese speakers! 

Level 1 of the Beginner course is completely FREE! That’s over 40 lesson videos you can watch right now, without paying a dime! Plus, you’ll have access to all of our study features for those lessons as well like interactive flashcards, quizzes, downloadable audio review MP3s, and Lecture Notes PDFs!

Get started here!

Take 1 Month's Worth of Lessons Free

Beginner

Chinese

Intermediate

Sign up for free

No credit card needed Takes 30 seconds

Ashley Labrie helps with all things academic at Yoyo Chinese. She has been learning Chinese for many years and has lived in China, where she first fell in love with the language and culture.

Wed, 15 Jul 2020 07:00:00 GMT

Sign Up and Start Learning Now

Beginner
Conversational
Chinese Character
Intermediate
Conversational

Sign up for free

No credit card needed.
Takes 30 seconds.