Knowing How and When to Say Thank You in Chinese
Psychologists have been touting the positive effect of gratitude for years. It can make you happier, improve your health and even help you build or strengthen relationships. Unsurprisingly, there are many ways of saying “Thank You” in most languages.
The Chinese language is no exception. If you plan to visit China for business or a family vacation, knowing how to say thank you in Chinese is essential. There are several ways you can accomplish that.
This article explores some common phrases to express gratitude. It will also guide you on the most appropriate way to say thank you in specific situations.
The Importance of Saying Thank You in Chinese Culture
According to the University of Macau, gratitude is China’s traditional virtue. That is evident in various aspects of Chinese life — from filial piety to devoted loyalty.
Saying thank you in Chinese is a way of showing kindness and being respectful. That is particularly important if much effort is involved in the person’s actions.
There’s also great importance in being grateful for any encouragement or assistance. Showing gratitude also helps build relationships with family members, acquaintances, and strangers.
However, the Chinese might shy away from accepting words of gratitude. They place greater importance on returning the favor. It’s best to demonstrate both and know which way of saying thank you in Chinese best suits your act of gratitude.
How Do You Say Thank You in Chinese?
“Thank you” is a common phrase that’s often said in Western culture. In Chinese culture, each instance may have a different meaning depending on the scenario. Here are a few you should know.
Common Ways to Say Thank You in Chinese
Before learning how to say thank you in Chinese, it’s important to note that two main dialects are spoken in China — Cantonese and Mandarin. The expressions for “thank you” will differ for both. Some other significant differences between the two include:
- Tones – Cantonese has nine; Mandarin has four or five
- Phonetic system – Cantonese uses Jyutping; Mandarin uses Pinyin
- Vocabulary and grammar
- Characters – Cantonese uses traditional Chinese characters; Mandarin uses simplified Chinese characters
- Location – People from Hong Kong and Guangdong Province mostly speak Cantonese; People from mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore speak Mandarin
If someone has done a favor for you and you’d like to thank them, here are a few ways you can:
- 谢谢 (xiè.xiè) – This is the most typical way of saying thank you in Chinese Mandarin. You’ll likely hear this because Mandarin is widely spoken in China. You can use it when you want to tell someone you appreciate their help or to express gratitude. When saying this version of thank you in Chinese pronunciation, say syeh-syeh. The first xie is high. Then you drop your tone for the second xie.
- 谢谢你 (xiè.xiè nǐ) – This is the same as 谢谢 (xiè.xiè) but focuses more on the person you’re thanking. It’s similar to emphasizing the “you” when saying thank you in English.
- 谢谢你们 (xiè.xiè nǐ.mén) – This is a variant of 谢谢你 (xiè.xiè nǐ). You can use it when you’d like to thank a group of people.
If you’re in a more casual setting, it would be more appropriate to use one of the following:
- 谢了(xiè.le) – Thanks
- 多谢 (duō.xiè) – 多 translates to many, so the phrase means “many thanks” or “thanks a lot.”
How to Say Thank You in Cantonese/Chinese
You’ve learned some general ways to say thank you in Chinese. However, knowing which to use when speaking Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese is vital.
Here are a few examples of how to say thank you in Cantonese:
- 多謝 (do1 Ze6/doh je sin)– You can use this casually or formally to say thanks. It’s most appropriate when you receive a favor or a gift from someone. Doh je sin, in English, literally means “Thank you first.”
- 好多謝你 (Hou2 do1 ze6 nei5) – This is an adaptation of the expression above, but it’s usually used in informal settings. It also denotes “thank you” with more enthusiasm or energy.
- 唔該 (m4 Goi/Mm goy) – This is particularly appropriate when thanking someone for a service. It’s typically used when thanking anyone in the service industry.
- 你真係好人 (nei5 Zan1 Hai6 Hou2 Jan4) – You can say this when someone puts a lot of effort into doing something for you. It translates to “That’s very kind of you” in English.
- 多謝你嘅鼓勵 (do1 Ze6 Nei5 Ge3 Gu2 Lai6) – It’s a polite response when someone says kind things about you or compliments you. When translated, it means, “Thanks for your kind words.”
How to Say Thank You in Mandarin
There are also standard terms used to show gratitude in Mandarin. Here are a few you can learn:
- 非常感谢你 (fēi cháng gǎn xiè nǐ) – There are many situations where a simple thank you isn’t enough. If you want to say thank you very much in Chinese, this is the phrase to use.
- 感谢你为我做的一切 (gǎn xiè nǐ wèi wǒ zuò de yī qiè) – You can take the expression above a step further by using this phrase to say “Thank you for everything.”
Thank You in Specific Chinese Dialects
There are hundreds of Chinese dialects. The Han Chinese handed down the Fukien/Hokkien language. They were mainly from South China and southern Fujian. It’s also one of the national languages of Taiwan. However, it’s spoken by Chinese in various countries around the world.
Thank You in Chinese Fukien
There are also several ways to say thank you in Chinese Fukien, including:
- 谢谢 (siah sia) – Thanks
- 多谢 (doh sia) – Many thanks
- 感谢 (gam sia) – Feeling thankful
Thank You in Chinese Formal
If you do business in China, the likelihood of you having to say “thank you” in a formal setting increases. Knowing these phrases can ensure you say the right thing in less casual situations.
- 谢谢您 (simplified）謝謝您 (traditional) – xièxie nǐn: Nǐn, which translates to “you,” is what makes this particular phrase formal. The casual application to this is listed above.
- 谢谢大家的来临。(simplified）謝謝大家的來臨 (traditional) – xiè xiè dà jiā de lái lín: Thank you all for coming today. This phrase is commonly used at business meetings or formal functions such as weddings.
Learn to say Thank You in Chinese and Other Phrases with NewConcept Education
When you arrive at a new destination, you may want to thank the flight crew as you disembark from the plane. You may also want to show gratitude to the immigration officers as you pass swiftly through customs. Thank you is an important phrase that helps you show appreciation in any language.
If you travel to China frequently, you should know how to say thank you in Chinese. However, it’s also essential to know other phrases as well.
Luckily, NewConcept Education has you covered. We teach six levels of Chinese with a maximum class size of four people. You’ll get the individual attention you need, allowing you to focus on becoming fluent. Don’t wait any longer. Get started on your journey to mastering Chinese by registering today!