As we grow up, we were taught that being polite to others was crucial. “Please,” “thank you,” and “sorry” often appeared in the conversation. But how do you respond when others say “sorry” or “thank you” to you? Knowing how to respond appropriately is just as important. In English, when people say “thank you” or “thanks,” you reply “you’re welcome.” But how do you say you’re welcome in Mandarin Chinese?
Let’s learn some manners keywords before we dive into more details,
Please 请 qǐng
Sorry 对不起 duìbùqǐ
Thank you 谢谢 xièxie
Now, we are going to introduce you to the 7 most common ways to respond to a “thank you” in Mandarin Chinese. How do you say you’re welcome or no problem in Chinese?
The 7 Most Common Ways to Express “You’re Welcome!” in Chinese
First of all, we use “客气 kèqi” quite often to express “you are welcome” in Chinese. “客气 kèqi” means “being polite.” But how is “being polite” related to “you’re welcome” in Chinese. Let’s get started!
不客气 bú kèqì / 不用客气 búyòng kèqi
Literal meaning: 不 bú not, no; 不用 búyòng need not, no need; 客气 kèqì polite
不客气 bú kèqì means don’t be so polite.
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不用客气 búyòng kèqì no need to be so polite.
Those two are the most common way to express “you’re welcome” in Chinese. Either one can be used on any occasion. “不用客气 búyòng kèqì” is slightly more formal than “不客气 bú kèqì.”
(You dropped your pen on the floor, someone next to you picks it up for you.)
A: Thank you.
B: You’re welcome.
不用谢 búyòng xiè
Literal: 谢 xiè thank you, thanks
不用谢 búyòng xiè means no need to say thank you.
This is often used in mainland China. Even the translation is “there is no need to say thank you,” it is a polite way to say, “you’re welcome.” It doesn’t really mean you don’t really need to thank other people.
A: Thank you for bringing this to me.
谢谢你帮我带这个。Xièxiè nǐ bāng wǒ dài zhège.
B: No need to say thank you. (You’re welcome.)
This reminds me of a funny story. As some of you may know I come from Taiwan, and as I grew up, I rarely heard people say “不用谢 búyòng xiè” to express you are welcome. I never taught my kids this way. When my little one was a toddler, we visited China. There was a lady who happened to help us bringing something over.
“谢谢！,” said my son.
“不用谢！,” said the lady.
“谢谢！,” said my son with a louder voice.
“不用谢！” replied the lady.
“要谢！要谢！Yào xiè! Yào xiè!” said my son with an angry voice.
(In case you are not familiar with the word 要 yào, it means “need to or want to.” In this case, he meant “need to.” From his understanding, receiving something from someone, you need to say thank you. But the lady told him “there is no need to say thank you.” He was frustrated because he thought the lady did not want to take his appreciation!)
你太客气了 nǐ tài kèqì le / 你太客气啦 nǐ tài kèqì la
Literal meaning: 你 nǐ you; 太 tài too; 客气 kèqì polite
你太客气了 is translated to “you are too polite!”
We usually won’t use this unless it is when others express their appreciation by more than just saying thank you. See the example below,
Lisa: Thank you for helping me last time. I made some cookies for you.
Xièxiè nǐ shàng cì bāng wǒ, wǒ zuòle yīxiē bǐnggān gěi nǐ!
Sarah: You are too polite!
Nǐ tài kèqì la!
Lisa expresses her gratitude by not only saying thank you but also by making some cookies. Sarah may feel that was more than she actually did for Lisa.
There is no strict rule for when to use “了” or “啦.” But “啦” is usually used in a casual setting.
没问题 méi wèntí
Literal meaning: no problem
This one is pretty straightforward compared to the others. When others say thank you, you simply accept that and say no problem!
A: Thank you for teaching me Chinese!
Xièxiè nǐ jiào wǒ zhōngwén!
B: No problem!
没事(儿) méishì (er)
Literal meaning: Nothing
This can be translated to “it is nothing” or “it is not a big deal!”
A: Thanks for throwing the trash away for me yesterday.
Xièxiè nǐ zuótiān bāng wǒ dào lājī.
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B: Not a big deal!
不会 bú huì / 不麻烦 bù máfan
Literal: 不会 bú huì it is not; 不 麻烦 bù máfan it is not troublesome.
We use those two phrases to let the ones who received our help that we do not think that is too much trouble to help them.
A: Thank you for babysitting my kid last minute. It was too troublesome.
Xièxiè nǐ jīntiān línshí bāng wǒ kàn xiǎohái, tài máfan nǐle!
B: No, it was not. Your daughter is so adorable!
Bù huì, bù máfan! Nǐ nǚ’ér hěn kě’ài!
举手之劳 jǔ shǒu zhī láo
This idiom literally means the exertion of lifting one’s hand. So, when people are using this idiom that means they think that it was a very slight effort that they made for you.
A: Thank you for giving my son a ride home. It was too troublesome for you!
Xièxiè nǐ bāng wǒ zài wǒ ér zǐ huílái, tài máfan nǐle!
B: It was on my way anyway. It was just a slight effort.
Wǒ gānghǎo shùnlù, zhè zhǐshì jǔshǒuzhīláo.
(It seems weird in English translation. But it really happens in Chinese conversations. When the Chinese receive appreciation from others, they tend to be even more polite. So that others won’t feel that guilty.)
There are still other ways to express “you’re welcome” in Mandarin Chinese. But the ones we have listed above are the most common ways. We have put those expressions below in the table for your reference.
You’re Welcome in Mandarin Chinese Infographic
One of the cultural differences I experienced when I first moved to the States was implicit and straightforward. Most people who grew up in the States, they state their ideas, feelings, and opinions very clearly. They usually are not afraid to say it out loud. On the other hand, this is a different case in Chinese culture. When we have different opinions than others, we often choose an implicit way to express them, or even change the topic to avoid the conflicts.
I used to be a high school Chinese teacher in Ohio. Whenever we talked about cultural differences, or even when I took students to China, I always remind them, when talking about or experiencing a culture difference, keep your mind open. Don’t think “Oh, that is really weird.” Try thinking “It is different.”
Some people may think, well, I know some Chinese they don’t act in the way you said. Yes, I agree. When we talk about culture, it is only a general situation. It does not represent everyone. It does not mean all of the people who live in the same country will express their opinions in the same way. That’s why communication is so important.