吧 / 吗

bridie

New Member
English - Australian
你们好,
I was wondering if it is appropriate to use 吧 in place of 吗? If so, is 吧 more informal, colloquial? I am unsure about the usage of 吧 in particular.
For example, can you say ‘你想吃东西吗?’ and also say ’你想吃东西吧?‘, and what is the difference? I think 吧 is possibly used more in speech...
谢谢!I am still learning, especially informal language.
 
  • xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    Hi bridie, and welcome to the forum! :)

    Both 吧 and 吗 can be used as question particles. With 吗, you just ask a question; and with 吧 you're asking for confirmation of what you think is the case.

    Take your examples:
    1. 你想吃东西吗?Here you simply ask for information (whether someone wants to eat).
    2. 你想吃东西吧?Here you ask for confirmation (whether someone wants to eat) because he looks as if he wants to eat, or because it has been already very late and so you assume he wants to eat.

    The same difference exists in English between the following:
    1. Do you want to go?
    2. You want to go, don't you?
     

    bridie

    New Member
    English - Australian
    Thanks very much, that was really helpful. So 吧 is more of a suggestion, I understand :) Does the same go with 呢?
     

    xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    So 吧 is more of a suggestion, I understand :) Does the same go with 呢?
    吧 is also used in suggestions ( 走吧!= Let's go!) but this is a different use to the one under discussion. 呢 is again a different thing and is best discussed in another thread (or beginners will get very confused if they're all discussed together in one thread :))
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    When used in a question, 吧 is more affirmative than 吗, means you're pretty sure about the answer.

    呢 in a question:
    1. "How about...?" (Must have prior contexts.) e.g. 他会去,你呢? He will go. How about you?
    2. "Where?" e.g. 我的钱包呢? Where's my wallet?
    3. Follows an open-ended question. e.g. 你叫什么呢?为什么呢?(mengjiao reminds me this...)
     
    Last edited:

    mengjiao

    Member
    Chinese
    Yes, questions with 吧 are more suggestive.

    So what's the difference between 吗 and 呢 ?

    When someone asks you a question with 吗, the person has to add some subjective content or content with a direction, like 好 or 在. So it would be 你好吗? 你在吗? But when the person asks you a question with 呢, there's no content with a specific direction regarding to a certain state. So it would be 你怎么样呢? 你在哪呢? I would say a question with 呢 expects an answer with more possibilities.


    Examples:

    You are good, right? 你好吧?
    Are you good?  你好吗?
    How are you? 你怎么样(呢)? Good. You? 好。你呢?

    You are there, right? 你在吧?
    Are you there?  你在吗?
    Where are you? 你在哪(呢)?

    It's a bird, right? 它是鸟吧?
    Is it a bird? 它是鸟吗?
    What is it? 它是什么(呢)? 
     
    Last edited:

    南島君

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Agree with replies above. I just want to add in some notes. In 邵敬敏's words (1996:12):
    我們認爲:信與疑,是兩種互為消長的因素,信增一分,疑就減一分;反之,疑增一分,信就減一分。因此當信為1時,疑為0;信為3/4時,疑為1/4;信為1/2時,疑為1/2;信為1/4時,疑為3/4;信為0時,疑為1。……
    正反問(Polar question)……信、疑各1/2。……
    特指問(Wh- question)……信0、疑1。……
    反詰問("rhetorical question")……信1、疑0。……
    「嗎」字是非問句……信1/4而疑3/4。……
    「吧」字是非問句為信3/4而疑1/4。
    note: 括弧内的英文註解是我加入,文責自負。

    Please read more on 邵敬敏 1996。《現代漢語疑問句研究》。上海:華東師範大學出版社。 if you are interested.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    Agree with replies above. I just want to add in some notes. In 邵敬敏's words (1996:12):

    我們認爲:信與疑,是兩種互為消長的因素,信增一分,疑就減一分;反之,疑增一分,信就減一分。因此當信為1時,疑為0;信為3/4時,疑為1/4;信為1/2時,疑為1/2;信為1/4時,疑為3/4;信為0時,疑為1。……
    正反問(Polar question)……信、疑各1/2。……
    特指問(Wh- question)……信0、疑1。……
    反詰問("rhetorical question")……信1、疑0。……
    「嗎」字是非問句……信1/4而疑3/4。……
    「吧」字是非問句為信3/4而疑1/4。
    note: 括弧内的英文註解是我加入,文責自負。

    Please read more on 邵敬敏 1996。《現代漢語疑問句研究》。上海:華東師範大學出版社。 if you are interested.
    Man...We are like computers, aren't we!
     

    yuechu

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    I don't know how accurate it is (whether it can actually be put into percentages as it is), but I really like the explanation that you cited from 邵敬敏, 南岛君! I had never thought of classifying question types before like that, based on certainty. Thanks for the explanation :)
     
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