When I first started to learn Mandarin, I really couldn’t get my head around the idea that there wasn’t really a word for yes in Chinese. The ones that I initially picked up and used were 是的 (shì de) and 对 (duì), but there are quite a few more that you can use in order to respond to a question, agree with or give permission to someone.
Below are just some of the ways that you can say yes in Chinese:
Using Yes to Respond to a Question
The simplest way to use ‘yes’ is to confirm a ‘yes-no’ type question:
是 / 是的 / 是啊 (shì / shì de / shì a) Yes
你是老师吗？(nǐ shì lǎo shī ma?) Are you a teacher?
是的 (shì de) Yes
对 / 对的 / 对啊 (duì / duì de / duì a) Right
Just like in English, there are other variations of ‘yes’ that can be used to answer a question, such as sure, certainly and ‘right’:
这是你的书吗？(zhè shì nǐ de shū ma?) Is it your book?
对，是我的。(duì, shì wǒ de) Yes it’s mine.
Using Yes to Agree
We often use ‘yes’ or ‘right’ to agree with a statement:
这部车真棒！(zhè bù chē zhēn bàng) This car is great！
是啊，就是太贵了。(shì a, jiù shì tài guì le) Yeah, but it’s too expensive.
我超喜欢这部电影！(wǒ chāo xǐ huan zhè bù diàn yǐng) I like this movie very much!
对，我也是！(duì, wǒ yě shì) Yes, me too!
Although, the literal translation of 可以 (kě yǐ) is ‘can’ it is often used in Chinese to say ‘yes’:
可以帮我个忙吗？(kě yǐ bāng wǒ gè máng ma?) Could you do me a favour?
可以，请稍等一会。(kě yǐ, qǐng shāo děng yī huì) Yes，please wait for a minute.
我无法同意你的方案。(wǒ wú fǎ tóng yì nǐ de fāng àn) I cannot say yes to your plan. (I can’t agree with your plan.)
我无法答应你的请求。(wǒ wú fǎ dā ying nǐ de qǐng qiú) I cannot say yes to your request. (I can’t agree with your request.)
Using Yes to Accept an Offer
要来杯咖啡吗？(yào lái bēi kā fēi ma) Would you like a cup of coffee?
好啊，谢谢。(hǎo a, xiè xie) Yes, thanks
Using Yes to Show You Are Ready to Respond
服务员！(fú wù yuán) Waiter!
有事吗？(yǒu shì ma?) Yes, sir？
什么事？我马上过来，妈妈！(shén me shì, wǒ mǎ shàng guò lái, mā ma) Yes? I’m coming, mom!
Using Yes to Encourage People to Continue Speaking
我刚听到一条小道消息。(wǒ gāng tīng dào yī tiáo xiǎo dào xiāo xi) I just heard a rumour on the grapevine.
嗯? (èn) Yeah…?
Using Yes to Show Disbelief
她是我女朋友。(tā shì wǒ nǚ péng you) She is my girlfriend.
哦，是吗？ 看起来不像。(ó, shì ma? kàn qǐ lái bù xiàng) Oh yeah? It doesn’t look like it.
Using Yes to Indicate Something Forgotten and Just Remembered
我的帽子呢？哦，对了，我今天没带帽子出门。(wǒ de mào zi ne? Ó, duì le, wǒ jīn tiān méi dài mào zi chū mén) Where is my hat? Oh yeah, I didn’t wear my hat today.
Using Yes to Emphasize
Yes can also be used to exclaim in excitement:
没错 (méi cuò)
他今天进了十个球。没错，十个球！(tā jīn tiān jìn le shí gè qiú. méi cuò, shí gè qiú!) He scored 10 goals today! Yes, 10 goals!
Using Yes to Show Excitement
你答对了！(nǐ dá duì le) Bingo！
太棒了！(tài hǎo le) Yes!
Using Yes in a ‘Yes and No’ Phrase
Although in English, the meaning of this phrase is ‘I couldn’t say’, it can also be classed as a ‘yes and no’ response.
你觉得他怎么样？(nǐ jué de tā zěn me yàng) What do you think about him?
不好说。 (bù hǎo shuō) Yes and no. (I couldn’t say)
In this example, X is the action you’re not sure about undertaking.
你想回国工作吗？(nǐ xiǎng huí guó gōng zuò ma?) Do you want to return to your country to work?
也想也不想。(yě xiǎng yě bù xiǎng) Yes and no.
If you know other ways to use ‘yes in Chinese’ or want to share your ‘yes’ sentences with us, you can do so in the comments section below!