This article covers the character 让(ràng), a word with two virtually opposite meanings in Mandarin:
- to permit; to yield
- to make someone do/feel something; to have someone do something.
Tackling these different definitions “in the wild” can be more than a little confusing for learners. But then, that’s Mandarin; we don’t learn it because it’s simple.
Below are examples of 让 in action, to help demonstrate how it’s used in both senses of the word.
To let; to yield; to permit
(Qǐng ràng yíxià.)
Let me pass, please.
(Ràng nǐ de dìdi kàn yíxià.)
Let your little brother have a look!
(Ràng wǒ xiǎng yì xiǎng.)
Let me have a think.
To make; to have someone to something:
- 我的 新教练让我做两百个俯卧撑。
(Wǒ de xīn jiàoliàn ràng wǒ zuò liǎng bǎi ge fǔwòchēng.)
My new personal trainer made me do 200 push ups!
(Tāmen de lǎobǎn yòu ràng tāmen jiābān le. Zhēn xīnkǔ.)
Their boss made them do overtime again. So hardgoing.
(Māma lǎoshì ràng wǒ bāng tā xǐ wǎn.)
Mum always makes me help her wash the dishes
(Qǐng ràng bǎojiéyuán jīntiān bǎ chuānghu dōu cā gānjìng.)
Please have the cleaner wash all the windows today.
To make someone feel a certain way:
(Tā ràng wǒ zhème shēngqì·)
He makes me so angry!
(Nǐ yòu ràng wǒ juédé kāixīn le.)
You made me feel happy again (i.e. I wasn’t happy, now I am)
As you can see: context is king.
In most cases you can guess the meaning of 让. For example, no one is going to complain that their personal trainer “let” them do 200 push-ups. Obviously here the meaning is “to make”, which is an imperative.
Like with any new vocab, understanding the proper use of 让is just a question of listening and practicing… thenlistening and practicing some more!
You can learn also a lot from how native Mandarin speakers use the English word “let”. You may notice that when speaking English, they use “let” to mean both “to yield” and “to make”– an interesting back-to-front way to learn how 让 covers both meanings in Mandarin!
For any questions, feel free to comment and contact me!
(For more information, you can also check the specific explanation video about “the Pivotal Sentence of 使” and ”让” at HSK grammar tutorial course. )