How To Express Purpose in Chinese

How to use “为了wèile”

Just a few days ago, I had a class with a student. During the class, I noticed he said 为了(wèile) several times, but not necessarily in the right way. This blog post is about how to use “为了” properly.

“为了” is a proposition, which means “in order to”, “for the purpose of”, “for the sake of”. It indicates some purpose. 

These are the two most common structures.

为了+Purpose, Subject+ Predicate

Examples

  • 为了健康,他戒烟了。(Wèile jiànkāng, tā jièyānle.)
    • Purpose: health
    • He gave up smoking for the sake of health.

 

  • 为了让女朋友高兴,他买了一个项链。(Wèile ràng nǚ péngyǒu gāoxìng, tā mǎile yīgè xiàngliàn.)
    • Purpose: making his girlfriend happy
    • He bought a necklace to make his girlfriend happy.

 

  •  为了提高中文水平,他每天努力学习。(Wèile tígāo zhōngwén shuǐpíng, tā měitiān nǔlì xuéxí.)
    • Purpose: improving Chinese
    • In order to improve his Chinese, he studied hard everyday.

Subject+ 为了+ Purpose+ Predicate

Sometimes, 为了 can be placed after the subject, and might be followed with “而” in written Chinese.

Examples

  • 我们要为了自己的未来好好学习。(Wǒmen yào wèile zìjǐ de wèilái hǎo hào xuéxí.)
    • Purpose: a good future
    • For a good future for ourselves, we should study hard.

 

  • 他为了照顾父母(而)放弃了那份高薪工作。(Tā wèile zhàogù fùmǔ (ér) fàngqìle nà fèn gāoxīn gōngzuò.)
    • Purpose: taking care of his parents
    • In order to take care of his parents, he gave up the job with high salary.

The different order doesn’t affect the meaning. Both structures have the same meaning, as long as the purpose comes before the predicate.

Commonly Made Mistakes

Some students might use 为了 like this: 

  • 我锻炼身体为了减肥。(Wǒ duànliàn shēntǐ wèile jiǎnféi.)
    •  I do exercises to lose weight.

 

  • 我这个星期要每天学习为了通过考试。(Wǒ zhège xīngqí yào měitiān xuéxí wèile tōngguò kǎoshì.)
    • I will work hard everyday in this week in order to pass the exam.

How do you express purpose in English? We may say: “In order to lose weight, I will go jogging.” or “Anne raised her voice in order to be heard.” The purpose can be put in the beginning or end of a sentence. This is the reason why foreign students always put the purpose in the end when they speak in Chinese.

Subject+(之所以)+Predicate+是+为了+Purpose/Reason

Sometimes (not often) you might see “为了” coming after 是. In this case, it often goes with 之所以,which means the reason why… in a more formal way. In this structure, “是” is important, and cannot be omitted

  • 我努力工作是为了有一个很好的未来。(Wǒ nǔlì gōngzuò shì wèile yǒu yīgè hěn hǎo de wèilái.)
    • I work hard to have a good future.

 

  • 他们现在学英语是为了以后学工程。(Tāmen xiànzài xué yīngyǔ shì wèile yǐhòu xué gōngchéng.)
    • They are learning English in order that they can study engineering.

Jane completed her MA in Chinese Linguistics at Fudan University. She loves language and her true passion is teaching Chinese as a second language.