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It’s that time of year again when we show goodwill to all men, so it seemed only right to take some time and learn some words and phrases that show gratitude, appreciation and giving compliments. Praise and showing appreciation in Chinese culture is very different to how things are done in the west, and modesty and humility are held in high regard. Knowing how to show thanks in Chinese demonstrates your understanding, appreciation and respect for Chinese culture, even if China is beginning to accept more western ways.
Use one of the following adverbs + adjective to create a complimentary phrase:
…真…! (zhēn…) …really..!
…好…! (hǎo…) ….very/so..!
…很…! (hěn…) …quite/very..!
How to Compliment Appearances
The following phrases are made using an adverb such as the ones above with an adjective related to appearance. Some commonly used adjectives for appearance are:
漂亮 (piào liang) pretty
美 (měi) beautiful
帅 (shuài) handsome
酷 (kù) cool
可爱 (kě ài) cute/ adorable
年轻 (nián qīng) young
你好美！(nǐ hǎo měi) You are so pretty!
你的眼睛真好看！(nǐ de yǎn jing zhēn hǎo kàn) Your eyes are so beautiful!
你的鞋子很酷！(nǐ de xié zi hěn kù) Your shoes are so cool!
你的宝宝好可爱！(nǐ de bǎo bǎo hǎo kě ài) Your baby is so cute!
你看起来很年轻！(nǐ kàn qǐ lái hěn nián qīng) You look so young！
How to Compliment Behaviour and Character
To compliment a talent, skill or positive character trait that someone possesses, you can use the following phrases:
好 (hǎo) good/well
厉害 (lì hai) serious (-ly good)
温柔 (wēn róu) gentle
有意思 (yǒu yì si) interesting/fun
有趣 (yǒu qù) interesting/fascinating
乖 (guāi) well-behaved
聪明 (cōng ming) smart/intelligent
棒 (bàng) great
你真好！(nǐ zhēn hǎo) You are so nice！
你游泳真厉害！(nǐ yóu yǒng zhēn lì hai) You are really good at swimming!！
真有趣！(zhēn yǒu qù) That’s funny！
你的厨艺真好！(nǐ de chú yì zhēn hǎo) You cook really well！
宝贝，你真棒！(bǎo bèi, nǐ zhēn bàng) Sweet heart, you’re so great!
你看起来像高中生！(nǐ kàn qǐ lái xiàng gāo zhōng shēng) You look like you could be a high school student.
Behaviour and Character:
这是你做的菜？我想天天去你家吃饭。(zhè shì nǐ zuò de cài? Wǒ xiǎng tiān tiān qù nǐ jiā chī fàn) Did you cook this?! I want to eat at your home every day.
In Chinese culture modesty is highly prized and if someone was to give you a compliment, you would never say ‘thank you’. In the west, saying ‘thanks’ is just a polite way to accept a compliment, whereas in Chinese culture, this would be egotistical. Although, it is fair to say that more and more Chinese people are accepting the more western way of receiving compliments
Instead of accepting a compliment, it is common to deflect the compliment or praise by using one of the following phrases:
哪里， 哪里。(nǎ li nǎ li) Where? Where? (No, I’m not…)
Although the literal translation of this phrase is ‘Where? Where?’, the actual meaning behind it is ‘cannot accept this compliment’. In fact, most of the phrases here can be used in a similar way to 哪里，哪里 (nǎ li nǎ li), but the following are more commonly used:
一般，一般。(yī bān, yī bān) Not good, not good (I’m just so-so)
还好，还好。 (hái hǎo, hái hǎo) Not bad, not bad. (I’m tolerable…)
不，不，不 (bù, bù, bù) No, no, no…
Here are some compliments you might give and receive in China, and some deflecting responses:
- 你的中文说得很好。(nǐ de zhōng wén shuō de hěn hǎo) You speak Chinese really well.
- 哪里，哪里，我才刚开始学。(nǎ li nǎ li, wǒ cái gāng kāi shǐ xué) It’s not good, I just started to learn.
- 不，不，我说的不好。(bù, bù, wǒ shuō de bù hǎo)。No, no, I don’t speak well.
Another common and easy way to reflect praise is by using the following:
- 你的耳环很漂亮。(nǐ de ěr huán hěn piào liang) Your earrings are very pretty.
- 是吗？我昨天才买的。(shì ma? Wǒ zuó tiān cái mǎi de) Really? I just bought them yesterday.
- 真的吗？我也很喜欢。(zhēn de ma? Wǒ yě hěn xǐ huan) Really? I like them too.
- 真的吗？谢谢。(zhēn de ma? xiè xie) Really? Thanks.
These replies below are a little negative but are still traditional responses to compliments and praise.
还行吧。(hái xíng ba) Just so-so.
马马虎虎。(mǎ ma hū hū) Just so-so.
也就这样, …。(yě jiù zhè yàng…) It’s just as it is, …
- 你换发型了？看起来很帅！(nǐ huàn fà xíng le, kàn qǐ lái hěn shuài.) Have you changed your hairstyle? It looks great (handsome)!
- 还行吧，你比我帅多了。(hái xíng ba, nǐ bǐ wǒ shuài duō le) It’s OK, but you are more handsome than me.
- 也就这样吧，我在家门口剪的。 (yě jiù zhè yàng ba, wǒ zài jiā mén kǒu jiǎn de) It’s just as it is, I had it cut near my home.
Just like in the west, simply saying ‘thanks’ is becoming the more modern way to show gratitude and appreciation in Chinese:
谢谢 (xiè xie), …
- 你做的菜真好吃。(nǐ zuò de cài zhēn hǎo chī) You cook really well.
- 谢谢，好吃你就多吃点。(xiè xie, hǎo chī nǐ jiù duō chī diǎn) Thank you. If you like it, please eat more.
- 谢谢，我妈妈叫我做的。(xiè xie, wǒ mā ma jiào wǒ zuò de) Thank you! My mom taught me.
Showing Gratitude 道谢 (dào xiè)
Although it is not customary to accept compliments, it is very important to show gratitude if someone has gone out of their way to help you.
The following expressions of gratitude range from casually thanking friends, to showing gratitude to someone who has helped you in a significant way.
谢谢 (xiè xie) Thanks
谢谢你 (xiè xie nǐ) Thank you
多亏你了 (duō kuī nǐ le) Thanks to you
One of the simplest ways to show gratitude is to say 谢谢 (xiè xie) ‘thank you’.
谢谢你帮我忙。(xiè xie nǐ bāng wǒ máng) Thank you for helping me.
To show ‘appreciation’ and ‘gratitude’ you can use 感谢 (gǎn xiè):
非常感谢您的意见。(fēi cháng gǎn xiè nín de yì jiàn) I really appreciate your opinions
To explain to someone that you want to ‘express thanks’, you can say 表示感谢 (biǎo shì gǎn xiè):
为了表示感谢，我准备了一份薄礼，请笑纳。(wèi le biǎo shì gǎn xiè, wǒ zhǔn bèi le yī fèn bó lǐ, qǐng xiào nà) Please accept my gift as thanks. (Literal: To express my thanks, I prepared a small gift. Please kindly accept it.)
You can also say thanks indirectly, without using a form of 谢谢 (xiè xiè):
太麻烦你了。(tài má fan nǐ le) I’ve caused you too much trouble.
太辛苦了。(tài xīn kǔ le) I’ve caused you too much trouble.
真不好意思。(zhēn bù hǎo yì si) I’m so embarrassed.
Responding to Gratitude
Unlike in English, there is no phrase that means ‘you’re welcome’, but deflect gratitude with the following:
不谢。 (bú xiè) Don’t thank me.
不客气。(bú kè qi) Don’t be polite.
不用 (谢)。(bù yòng xiè) No need (for thanks).
哪里。(nǎ lǐ) It was nothing.
没事。(méi shì) It was nothing.
没什么。(méi shén me) It wasn’t anything.
If you know of other ways to show gratitude in Chinese, please share your ideas with us below!