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  5. 包 versus 袋。When to use which?


包 versus 袋。When to use which?

他家好! I'm having a lot of difficulty understanding the difference between 包 and 袋 when referring to a bag in Chinese. Does anyone have a good time regarding which one to use in which circumstance? Thanks!

May 12, 2018



They are just synonyms. 袋 refers to a flexible container with an opening at the top used for carrying things, i.e. a bag, as a noun or "holding something in a bag" as a verb. 包 refers to "wrap" as a verb, in ancient times, people use a cloth to wrap around their belongings forming what we call a bag nowadays, so it also means "bag" as a noun (and no longer limited to wrapping stuff nowadays). Of course, they both can refer to something else but that is too complicated and unrelated to your question so I won't go into it. There are no special rules here, while they are slightly different in wenyanwen (classical Chinese), they now basically mean the same thing. You've asked about which one to use in which circumstance, my suggestion is to just memorise common vocabulary about bags. I‘ve included some common terms below: - 包:backpack書包、backpack背包、wallet錢包、any bag包包 - 袋:handbag手袋、fabric bag布袋、pocket on clothes口袋、plastic bag膠袋、any bag袋子


Thank you for this!

  • 1280

"他家好“ is a typo right? it should be "大家好"。

Anyway, "包” and "袋“ although both have the meaning of 'bag' but are often not interchangeable. ”包" in most cases refers to bags of more defined or rigid shapes:


whereas "袋" often refers to bags without a regular shape or are flexible:


and of course there are many exceptions:

for example 手提包 is now more often referred to as 手袋 - borrowed from Cantonese, I believe.

I guess you just have to use this rule as a rough guide but try to remember any exceptions as your encounter them.


They both mean bag. 包 is more like a backpack or a purse, whereas 袋 is more for things like grocery bags, shopping bags, and those bags that don't typically have zippers with it.

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