polite Chinese expressions

5 Simple Expressions That Make You Sound More Polite In Chinese

In Practical Chinese Phrases by Angel Huang1 Comment

It’s no secret that Mandarin can sound pretty direct to the ears of an English speaker.

For example…

You may have noticed that words like “please” (请 qǐng) and “thank you” (谢谢 xiè xiè) often aren't used  in situations where you’d expect to hear these in English.

And this is especially true in conversations among relatives and close friends — something a student of mine observed while spending time with his parents-in-law in Beijing:

“One thing that always astonishes me is how [in Chinese] you can just directly ask for things without saying please – and in the family setting it almost seems to be rude if you do say your please and thank yous. That’s one of the hardest things for a polite Canadian like me to get used to!” - Anthony M.

Now, of course…

Mandarin Chinese has lots of words and expressions to show politeness.

And under the right circumstances, they can definitely have a positive effect on the listener.

This is especially the case….

... when you ask for something (unexpectedly) from people you don’t know well

... in formal situations

So, let’s have a look at some of those expressions!  

(Warning: This video contains aggressive body language & rude tone of voice... )

BONUS: Download MP3 + PDF to Review This Lesson Anytime

The 5 Expressions From The Video (With More Examples)

请  qǐng  

Please

Example 1: 

给我一杯咖啡。

qǐng gěi wǒ yī bēi kā fēi.

(Could you) please give me a cup of coffee(?)

Example 2: 

坐下!

qǐng zuò xià!

Have a seat, please. / Please sit down.

polite Chinese experssions: Please
polite Chinese expressions: May I ask..? / Excuse me

请问  qǐng wèn

lit. please + ask

May I ask..? / Excuse me

Example 1: 

请问医院在哪儿?

qǐng wèn yī yuàn zài nǎ er?

Excuse me, where’s the hospital?

Example 2: 

请问你有零钱吗?

qǐng wèn nǐ yǒu líng qián ma?

May I ask if you have change?

麻烦你  má fán nǐ

lit. to trouble + you

May I trouble you to..? / Sorry to trouble you

Example 1: 

麻烦你关窗!

má fán nǐ guān chuāng!

May I trouble you to close the window?

Example 2: 

麻烦你给他打个电话!

má fán nǐ gěi tā dǎ gè diàn huà!

Sorry to trouble you to give him a call.

polite Chinese expressions: May I trouble you to..? Sorry to trouble you
polite Chinese expressions: to be sorry (for inconveniencing somebody) to feel embarrassed (about something)

不好意思  bù hǎo yì sī

lit. not good + meaning

to be sorry (for inconveniencing somebody)

to feel embarrassed (about something)

Example 1: 

不好意思,我没带钱包。

bù hǎo yì sī,wǒ méi dài qián bāo.

Sorry, I didn’t bring my wallet.

Example 2: 

不好意思,我们只收现金。

bù hǎo yì sī,wǒ men zhǐ shōu xiàn jīn.

Sorry, we only take cash.

Example 3: 

不好意思,我迟到了。

bù hǎo yì sī,wǒ chí dào le.

Sorry, I’m late.  

打扰一下  dǎ rǎo yī xià

lit. to disturb + a bit

Sorry to bother you / Excuse me

Example 1: 

打扰一下,登机口在哪儿?

dǎ rǎo yī xià,dēng jī kǒu zài nǎ er?

Sorry to bother you, where’s the boarding gate?

Example 1: 

打扰一下,你有看到一只黑猫吗?

dǎ rǎo yī xià, nǐ yǒu kàn dào yī zhǐ hēi māo ma?

Excuse me, have you seen a black cat?

polite Chinese expressions: Sorry to bother you / Excuse me

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