It’s no secret that Mandarin can sound pretty direct to the ears of an English speaker.
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... )
The 5 Expressions From The Video (With More Examples)
qǐng gěi wǒ yī bēi kā fēi.
(Could you) please give me a cup of coffee(?)
qǐng zuò xià！
Have a seat, please. / Please sit down.
请问 qǐng wèn
lit. please + ask
May I ask..? / Excuse me
qǐng wèn yī yuàn zài nǎ er？
Excuse me, where’s the hospital?
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
má fán nǐ guān chuāng！
May I trouble you to close the window?
má fán nǐ gěi tā dǎ gè diàn huà！
Sorry to trouble you to give him a call.
不好意思 bù hǎo yì sī
lit. not good + meaning
to be sorry (for inconveniencing somebody)
to feel embarrassed (about something)
bù hǎo yì sī，wǒ méi dài qián bāo.
Sorry, I didn’t bring my wallet.
bù hǎo yì sī，wǒ men zhǐ shōu xiàn jīn.
Sorry, we only take cash.
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
dǎ rǎo yī xià，dēng jī kǒu zài nǎ er？
Sorry to bother you, where’s the boarding gate?
dǎ rǎo yī xià， nǐ yǒu kàn dào yī zhǐ hēi māo ma？
Excuse me, have you seen a black cat?
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