Phrases with 把 (bǎ) represent a peculiar characteristic of the Chinese language. The function of the character 把 is directly derived from classical Chinese where it had the meaning of “to take”.
Now this character is used for the verb “to take” and as a classifier for objects that can be grasped or objects with a handle (两把椅子, liǎng bǎ yǐzi, “two seats”).
Phrases with 把 are used to emphasize the result or consequence produced by a verbs. As an aid, think of phrases with 把 as responding to the question “what did the subject do to the object?”.
When using phrases with 把bǎ, the position of the object changes: the object comes “first”. Yes, usually simple phrases in Chinese go Subject + Verb + Object, but in this case it becomes Subject + Object + Verb, a formula directly derived from classical Chinese and still used in modern Japanese which, let’s remember, is more similar to classical Chinese than modern Chinese.
Structures with 把, as mentioned before, serve to place emphasis on the effect that is applied to a determined object, and to do so, the verb alone is not enough. For this reason, right after the verb “other elements” must be inserted that indicate the result caused by the action.
Conditions to respect
In order to elavorate a phrase with 把 there are certain conditions to respect.
1st condition: the object must refer to something specific and definite. In this way the speaker and listener know exactly what is being spoken of.
Wǒ dìdi bǎ jīdàn chī le.
My younger brother ate the egg.
Tā bǎ zhuōzi cā gānjìng le.
He cleaned the table.
2nd condition: the action expressed by the verb must bring about a conclusion or be completed. So usually the verbs or particles used express a change. As an example, you use the results or the particle 了 (le).
Here are some examples:
Wǒ hái méi bǎ lùnwén xiěwán le.
I haven’t yet finished writing the thesis.
Wǒ bǎ Chóngqìng dàxué de dìzhǐ wàngle.
I forgot the address of Chongqing University.
Qiānwàn, bié bǎ Hànzì xiě cuò!
I recommend that you don’t write the wrong characters!
Tā hěn kuài de bǎ píjiǔ dàizǒu le.
He made that beer disappear quickly.
Sheí bǎmén suǒ le?
Who locked the door?
3rd condition: when there’s a doubling of the verb or an intensity modifier (一下(yīxià), 一点(yīdiǎn), or “a little’”).
Wǒ yīnggāi bǎ fángjiān shōushi shōushi.
I should organize my room.
4th condition: in the presence of greater degree.
Qǐng bǎ shōuyīnjī kāi de dàshēng yīdiǎn.
Please raise the radio’s volume a little bit.
5th condition: in imperative phrases when at the end there’s the particle 着 (zhe) which indicates the persistence of the action.
Qǐng bǎ dēng názhe.
Please, hold the lamp.
Qǐng bǎ qiánbāo názhe.
Please, hold my wallet.
6th condition: in the presence of the characters 为 (wèi), 成 (chéng), 作 (zuò) or 当作 (dàngzuò), all meaning “to become”, “act like”, “consider as”, “use as”, etc.
Wǒ xiǎng bǎ Mò Yán xiě de xiǎoshuō fānyì chéng Yìdàlì wén.
I want to translate into Italian the novels written by Mo Yan.
Wǒ bǎ Chóngqìng kànzuò zìjǐ de jiā.
I consider Chongqing my home.
Tāmen bǎ wǒ kànzuò jiālǐ rén.
They consider me one of the family.
Xiàyǔ le, wǒ wàngle dài yǔsǎn. Wǒ kěyǐ bǎ shūbāo yòngzuò yǔsǎn.
It started to rain and I forgot to bring an umbrella. I can use my book bag as an umbrella.
7th condition: in the presence of places or additional directions.
Wǒ bǎ zhuōzi shàng de fẹ̌nbǐ fàng zài hézi lǐ.
I put the chalk on the table into the box.
Wǒ bǎ qìchē kāijìn chēkù qù le.
I put (driving) the car in the garage.
Qǐng cóng shūjià shàng bǎ shū ná xiàlai ba.
Please take the book off the shelf.
Hánguó tóngxué bǎ Hànzì xiě zài hēibǎn shàng.
My Korean classmate wrote characters on the chalkboard.
Clarifications on 把
If the phrase is negative, the negating adverb immediately precedes the 把:
Wǒ zuótiān méi bǎ gōngbǎo jīdīng chīwán.
Yesterday I didn’t finish eating the Gongbao Jiding.
Auxiliary modals always precede 把:
Xiǎo háizi bù yuànyi bǎ diànshì guānshang.
The kids don’t want to turn of the television.
You should never use the particle 过:
Qiānwàn, bié bǎ xuéxí Zhōngwén de shíjiān rànggěi wán yóuxì.
I recommend that you don’t spend your time for learning Chinese for playing around.
Important: in written language, at times you can find 将 (jiāng) in place of 把. The meaning of the phrase doesn’t change, just pay attention to the use of 将.