The action of a sentence can be stated in two ways: you may either focus on the agent who performs the action, or on the object that receives the action. The former is called the active voice, in which the agent serves as the subject of the sentence; the latter is called the passive voice, in which the receiver becomes the subject. That is the “bèi” sentence. But in Chinese, it does not involve any change of verb forms.
What is “bèi” sentence?
In the “bèi 被” sentence, the receiver of action takes the place of the subject that is followed by “bèi 被”, the agent of the action, and the verb. Except for some disyllabic verbs, the verb needs to be followed by some kind of complementation to indicate the completion, the result, or the occurrence of an action.
Tā bèi xuéxiào kāichú le.
他 被 学校 开除 了。
He was expelled by the school.
Tā bèi xuéxiào jǐnggào guo.
他 被 学校 警告 过。
He has been warned by the school.
In these two sentences, the aspect particle 了(le) and 过(guò) add more information to the action. The verb may take an object that is usually part of the subject or is related to rhe subject; it may also take a complement.
“Bèi 被” is traditionally used in the sense of being inflicted upon——to suffer from something undesirable or negative. It typically collocates with verbs expressing negative meanings such as:
被打 bèi dǎ
被告 bèi gào
被抓 bèi zhuā
被杀 bèi shā
Tā bèi fá le.
他 被 罚 了。
He was penalized.
The “bèi 被” sentence is used to refer to unhappy events. However, languages change. Since the early 20th century, due to the influence of western languages, the “bèi 被” sentence is no longer used exclusively to refer to negative events. Today, it is also used to convey positive news.
Tā bèi tímíng Nuòbèiěrjiǎng.
他 被 提名 诺贝尔奖。
He was nominated for the Nobel Prize.
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