Basic Spoken Chinese – Lesson 13: 吧 ba, another common particle

Listen and download Lesson 13 of Basic Spoken Chinese

Basic Spoken Chinese – Lesson 13: 吧 ba, another common particle

Literally: No equivalent in English.

Usage: Used to give a suggestion, or to express a speculation. It can also be used to concede a point when used with 好 hǎo as in 好吧!hǎo ba (“all right!; fine!”).


1) 算了吧。

Suàn le ba.

Literally: 算 suàn (“to count; to regard”) + 了 le (verb completion particle) + 吧 ba (particle indicating suggestion)

Function: Used to let the other person know that you don’t care anymore about what was being talked about.

Near-equivalent in English: “Forget about it.” or “Never mind.”

2) 不会吧。

Bù huì ba.

Literally: “Can’t be.”

Function: Used to express a feeling that the likelihood of something happening is very low.

Near-equivalent in English: “No way.”, “I doubt it.” or “You’re kidding me.” depending on context.

3) 改天再说吧。

Gǎitiān zàishuō ba.

Literally: “Change day, speak again.”

Function: Used when you wish to cancel a plan with someone, and reschedule it for another day.

Near-equivalent in English: “Let’s try for another day.” or “Let’s take a rain check.”

New words:

吧 ba (part.):

1. (indicates a suggested action: why don’t you …) e.g. 你有时间再做吧 nǐ yǒu shíjiān zài zuò ba (“do it when you have time”)

2. (expresses imperative mood: let us …) e.g. 大家去工作吧 dàjiā qù gōngzuò ba (“get to work, everybody”), 走吧! zǒu ba (“let’s go!”), etc.

3. (indicates a speculation) e.g. 门还没锁吧 mén hái méi suǒ ba (“the door has not been locked, I guess”)

4. (used at the end of a sentence used to concede a point) e.g. 好吧! hǎo ba! (“all right!; fine!”)

算 suàn (v.):

1. to calculate e.g. 我来算一算旅行的费用 wǒ lái suàn yī suàn lǚxíng de fèiyòng (“I’ll calculate the cost of the journey”), 请算一算我该付多少钱 qǐng suàn yī suàn wǒ gāi fù duōshao qián (“please calculate how much I should pay”), etc.

2. to plan (used in compounds only) e.g. 打算 dǎsuàn (“to plan”)

3. to regard as; to consider e.g. 老王算是一个好人 Lǎo Wáng suàn shì yī gè hǎorén (“Old Wang is a good person”), 比起南方, 北京的夏天不算热 bǐqǐ nánfāng, Běijīng de xiàtiān bù suàn rè (“compared to the South, summer in Beijing isn’t really hot”), etc.

4. to let it pass; to give up (when followed by 了 le) 算了,我不去了 suàn le, wǒ bù qù le (“forget it – I’m not going”)

改 gǎi (v.): to change; to alter; to modify e.g. 开会时间改了 kāihuì shíjiān gǎi le (“the meeting time was changed”), 我要改名字 (“I want to change my name”), etc.

再 zài (adv.): again e.g. 我们不能再喝了 (“we can’t drink again” or “we can’t drink any more” depending on the context), 我再也不去了 (“I won’t go again”), etc.

说 shuō (v.):

1. to say; to speak (similar to 讲 jiǎng) e.g. 他说得太快,我没听懂 tā shuō de tài kuài, wǒ méi tīng dǒng (“he spoke too quickly – I didn’t catch what he said”)

2. to criticize; to scold; to upbraid e.g. 你怎么天天都说我?nǐ zěnme tiāntiān dōu shuō wǒ (“why do you constantly criticize me?”)

Did you know?

吧 ba is a common particle, so I’m glad you’ve learnt it now. Do you remember how many other Mandarin particles we’ve covered so far? Let’s see if I can refresh your memory.

Which particle do we use to indicate the completion of a verb, or a change of state? That’s 了 le.

Which particle do we use to indicate possession between objects and/or people? That’s 的 de.

Which particle do we use when counting a noun? Well, there are many different classifiers that can do this, but the most common and generic one is 个 ge.

Which particle do we use to express “also” or “as well”? That’s 也 yě.

Which particle do we use to turn a statement into a question? That’s 吗 ma.

We will cover a few more common particles in future lessons. For now, make sure you understand how these ones work first. You could try making some basic sentences with them.

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