When 给 (gěi) comes directly after verbs in Mandarin Chinese (verb-给 compounds)

The word 给 (gěi) is often used in Chinese as a preposition meaning “for” or “to”. In other words, 给 can be used to talk about doing something for someone or _to _someone. One way to do this is with so-called verb-给 compounds.

All that verb-给 compound means is a verb immediately followed by 给. For example:


Qǐng jiǎng gěi wǒ tīng.

Please tell me about it.

In that sentence, you can see 讲给 as a compound verb meaning “to tell to” or “to tell [someone] about”. This is a very common way to talk about doing something for or to someone in Chinese.

Some common verb-给 compounds

There are quite a few verbs in Chinese that often appear in verb-给 compounds. It might be helpful to watch out for them in the course of your studies. We've listed some of the most common ones here.

寄给 (jìgěi): to mail to

寄给 is a very easy way to talk about posting something to someone, for example:


Tāmen jì gěi wǒ yī zhāng shèngdànkǎ.

They sent me a Christmas card.


Nín néng fǒu jì gěi wǒ yī fèn shēnqǐng biǎo?

Could you send me an application form?

递给 (dìgěi): to pass to

This compound is used all the time in everyday life, usually when asking other people to hand something to you. E.g.:


Qǐng bǎ yán dì gěi wǒ.

Please pass me the salt.


Tā bǎ jiǔ dì gěi tā.

She handed him the drink.

交给 (jiāogěi): to hand in to

If you take Chinese classes, you will almost certainly hear the teacher use 交给. Some examples:


Qǐng bǎ zuòyè ànshí jiāo gěi wǒ.

Please hand your homework in on time.


Wǒ bǎ zuòyè jiāo gěi lǎoshī.

I handed my homework in to the teacher.

卖给 (màigěi): to sell to

This is a very common way to talk about selling things to people. Examples:


Nǐ bùnéng bǎjiǔ mài gěi wèi chéngnián rén.

You can't sell alcohol to under-age people.


Zhège bù mài gěi yībānrén.

This isn't on sale to the general public.

还给 (huángěi): to give back to

This is commonly used to talk about giving things back to people or returning them:


Nà běn shū nǐ huán gěi túshū guǎnle ma?

Have you returned that book to the library?


Wǒ huì jǐnzǎo hái gěi nǐ zhè bǐ qián.

I'll return the money to you as soon as possible.

Verb-给 compounds often go with 把 (bǎ)

You might have noticed that a lot of the verb-给 compounds in the sentences above appeared in a 把 (bǎ) structure. This is because the 把 structure is used to talk about the disposal of the object (what happened to the object in the end).

If the object is getting mailed, passed around, handed in, sold or returned, then it is being directly affected and so the 把 structure is a good choice.

The structure for this is:

[subject] 把 [direct object] [verb] 给 [indirect object]

Don't worry if you don't know the difference between direct and indirect objects. Just note that there are two objects in this structure.

A few examples of verb-给 compounds in 把 structures:


Xuéshēngmen yǐjīng bǎ lùnwén jiāo gěi dǎoshī le.

The students have handed their essays in to their tutors.


Tā bù xiǎoxīn bǎ zhàopiàn jì gěi lǎobǎn le.

He accidentally mailed the photos to his boss.


Bùyào bǎ nǐ de zérèn tuīwěi gěi tārén.

Do not shirk your responsibilities on to others.

A more common structure with 给

Note that 给 can also be used as a preposition without being in a verb-给 compound. This is actually more common. We're explaining verb-给 compounds here because they're important to know about, but there's actually a more common way to arrange these sentences.

The structure for this is:

[subject] [verb] [direct object] 给 [indirect object]

Again, don't worry if you don't know the difference between direct and indirect objects. What matters is that there are two objects here. Let's have a look at some examples for this common structure:


Wǒ mǎile yīxiē chī de gěi nǐ.

I bought some food for you.


Wǒ yào xiě yī fēng xìn gěi tā.

I'm going to write him a letter.

Also remember that sentences with 给 are also commonly expressed using 把, as described above.


Tā bǎ nà běn shū sòng gěi nán péngyǒu le.

She gave that book to her boyfriend.

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