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All About “把” — The Use As A Measure Word

If you learn Chinese, you must know the character “把” and its corresponding uses in your first learning session. Besides the common use of 把 sentence, there is another use which is measure word. In modern Chinese language, a number cannot quantify a noun by itself. Measure words are used together with numbers to indicate the quantity of a noun (or action). the numeral comes, followed by the measure word and the noun:

PatternNumeralMeasure wordNoun
Englishthree people

However, some measure words are more difficult to understand, and “把”is one of them. Today, let’s learn 8 ways how to use the measure word 把 (bǎ).

1. 把 (bǎ) is a measure word most commonly used to quantify objects that can be grasped or objects with a handle. e.g.

牙刷(yáshuā, toothbrush), 钥匙(yàoshi, key), 梳子(shūzi, comb), 勺子(sháozi, spoon), 叉子(chāzi, fork), 刀(dāo, knife), 茶壶(cháhú, teapot), 剪刀(jiǎndāo ,scissors), 伞(sǎn, umbrella),尺子(chǐzi, ruler),笤帚(tiáozhou, broom), 椅子(yǐzi, chair),扇子(shànzi, fan), 小提琴(xiǎotíqín, violin), 锯(jù, saw), 斧子(fǔzi, axe), 剑(jiàn, sword), 手枪 (shǒuqiāng, pistol).


For examples:


I lost a key.
(Wǒ diū le yì bǎ yàoshi.)

It’s raining. I want to buy an umbrella. 
(Xià yǔ le, wǒ xiǎng mǎi yì bǎ yǔsǎn.)

Note that when specify a noun, you can use “这(this)” or“那(that)”to replace “一”, for examples:

This comb is Mary’s.
(zhè bǎ shū zi shì mǎ lì de.)

That fan is very beautiful.
(nà bǎ shàn zi hěn piào liang. )

2. 把 can also describe a handful of something. A set of objects that usually not bundled and could be hold in hand, e.g,

  • 一把火柴(yì bǎ huǒchái, a handful of matchsticks)
  • 一把豆子(yì bǎ dòuzi, a handful of beans),
  • 一把米(yì bǎ mǐ, handful of rice),
  • 一把花生(yì bǎ huāshēng, handful of peanuts),
  • 一把沙子(yì bǎ shāzi , a handful of sand).

Here are some ways to use it:


He fed the horse a handful of green grass. 
(Tā gěi mǎ wèi le yì bǎ qīng cǎo.)

The little girl put a handful of candy into her pocket. 
(Xiǎo nǚhái zhuā le yì bǎ táng fàng jìn kǒudài lǐ.)

3. A bunch/bundle of be depicted with把. It is ameasure word for things of the same kind fastened together for 香蕉(xiāngjiāo, bananas), 筷子(kuàizi, chopsticks), 菠菜(bōcài, spinach), 萝卜(luóbo, radishes), 大葱(dàcōng, scallions) and etc.


For some examples:


I went to supermarket and bought a bunch of bananas.        
(Wǒ qù chāoshì mǎi le yì bǎ xiāngjiāo.)

I also bought two bundles of radishes.
(Wǒ hái mǎi le liǎng bǎ xiǎo luóbo.)

4. 把only can describe a strong hand (this phrase would only occur in a sentence where the context would make the meaning clear — by itself, it is meaningless)

Here is how it was be used:


This suitcase is very heavy, it will take a strong hand to lift it. 
(Zhège xiāngzi hěn zhòng, tí qǐ tā xūyào yì bǎ lìqì.)

5. 把can describe the things that are done with hands.

For example:


give her a helping hand
(lā/ bāng tā yì bǎ)

6. 把would also help to encourage, or to motivate someone to work harder.

Here are examples:


work harder
(zài nǔ yì bǎ lì /zài jiā yì bǎ jìnr)

You have to study harder, if you want to pass this exam.
(rú guǒ xiǎng tōng guò zhè gè kǎo shì ,hái děi zài jiā yì bǎ jìnr.)

7. 把can also help modifying something about the actions with hands (the numerals have to be “一”)

An example:


She whines about her trouble with snot and tears streaming down her face.
(Tā yì bǎ bítì yì bǎ yǎn lèi de kūsù tā de fánnǎo.)

8. Lastly, 把can be a Measure word for persons with special skills — or for some abstract nouns — a good hand at something. Like the following:


He is good at babysitting.
(Tā shì dài háizi de yì bǎ hǎo shǒu.)

Measure words are very important in Mandarin Chinese learning. The best way to remember measure words is with example sentences. Hope you have a better understand of measure word “把” now.

Rita Zhang

Rita is a professional Mandarin teacher, has been teaching more than 8 years. She enjoys digging more about Chinese grammar and culture work and helping more learners. Now she is working at the one-on-one online Chinese school TouchChinese.

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