When you’re studying the Chinese language, or if you’re simply planning on visiting China, one of the first things you should learn is how to say ‘thank you’. For English speakers, expressing gratitude can be as simple as saying just those two words, however, the Chinese language and culture requires a bit more effort than that.
Depending on the situation, there are several different ways to say thank you in Chinese. For example, in English you’d be fine with just saying ‘thank you’ if a business partner does you a favor or gives you a nice gift, in Chinese, you’ll need to be more careful about the kind of characters you use to express your gratitude since you’ll want to also show respect to the other person.
Likewise, even when you’re among your peers you wouldn’t want to exaggerate your gratitude when a friend passes you a pen unless you want it to be seen as a way to distance yourself from the other person.
Although this might sound a bit confusing right now, we’ve prepared a quick guide that covers all the main ways to say thank you in Chinese in order to help you out and make expressing gratitude a bit clearer for foreign speakers. Moreover, knowing more than one word to say ‘thank you’ is a great way to expand your vocabulary as well as understanding the Chinese culture a little bit more.
How to Say Thank You in Chinese in Formal Situations
1. 麻烦您了 (má fan nín le)-Sorry for your trouble
Although saying 谢谢 (xièxiè) is the standard way to thank somebody, you’ll soon find out that this expression isn’t always the right one to use. When learning the Chinese language, you’ll notice that Chinese people have different ways of addressing each other depending on factors such as age, respect and social status of the other person. Whenever a situation can be described as ‘formal’, for example in office or business situations, the right Chinese symbol for ‘thank you’ to use could be 麻烦您了(má fan nín le).
Literally speaking, this expression is the equivalent of ‘inconvenient to you’ and, since in English this can be seen as too self-deprecating, the more correct translation would be ‘sorry for your trouble’.
More specifically, this expression is a formal way to say ‘thank you’ whenever someone of higher social status goes out of their way to help you or do you a favor. However, remember that 麻烦您了 is not exactly a formal apology, but it’s a way you can express gratitude in office-like situations.
Before we move on to other options, notice that in this case, we’re also using ‘您’ (nín), which is a formal character used to address a person we want to show special respect to. This word is commonly used towards teachers, doctors, business partners, or older people, meaning that whenever you want to express gratitude, using 您 instead of 你 is already a good way to make the Chinese ‘thank you’ expression more formal.
2. 谢谢大家 (xiè xiè dà jiā)-Thank you all
Another kind of formal situation could be a banquet, a business meeting, or any situation when you need to address a large group of people that you don’t know very well. If that is the case, then the thank you in Chinese is 谢谢大家(xièxiè dàjiā), which means ‘thank you all…’. It can be used at the beginning of a speech as well as the end of it.
What is also important is that the second part of the sentence, the one that directly follows 谢谢大家, should be specific. This means that, unlike a one-on-one situation, you should clearly state what you are thanking the group for. For instance:
- 谢谢大家今天到场…’ (xièxiè dàjiā jīntiān dàochǎng) to thank everybody for coming today.
- 谢谢大家的关注’ (xièxiè dàjiā de guānzhù) to thank everybody for their attention.
How to Say Thank You in Chinese in a Causal Way
Now that we’ve learned how to express gratitude in formal situations, it’s time to move on to more casual expressions to say ‘thank you’. As we’ve previously mentioned, the standard way to thank somebody is saying 谢谢 (xièxiè), however, there are several other variations you can learn to enrich your Chinese vocabulary.
3. 非常感谢 (fēicháng gǎnxiè)-Thank you very much!
The first variation we’ll focus on is ‘Thank you very much!’, which can be expressed by using the Chinese expression 非常感谢 (fēicháng gǎnxiè). Moreover, this sentence can also be abbreviated by only saying 感谢 (Gǎnxiè). What’s great about this specific saying is that it can be used in casual situations as well as semi-formal ones whenever you want to express a great deal of gratitude.
For example, if you want to thank somebody for helping you out, you can say:
非常感谢你的帮助！ (Fēicháng gǎnxiè nǐ de bāngzhù!)
4. 谢了 (xiè le)-Thanks
When we want to express gratitude in a quick and informal way, we have a couple of good options we can turn to. The first one is a simple 谢了 (xiè le), which is often used when speaking to a friend or in general text conversations through a cellphone. Basically, this is the Chinese correspondent of the word ‘Thanks’.
5. 多谢 (duō xiè)-Many thanks
The second abbreviation we can use in informal situations is 多谢 (Duōxiè), which could be translated with ‘many thanks’. As with 谢了, this expression is preferred in text messages or when talking to someone you know well.
A couple of example sentences with 多谢 could be
- 多谢你的关心 (duōxiè nǐ de guānxīn): thank you for your concern.
- 让你费神了，多谢，多谢！(ràng nǐ fèishénle, duōxiè, duōxiè): Thanks a lot for the trouble you’ve taken to help me!.
6. 感恩 (gǎn’ēn)-Gratitude
It is originally a noun expressing a feeling of appreciation felt by the recipient of kindness. So it is a big word when describing a life philosophy.
做人应该常怀感恩的心 (zuòrén yīnggāi cháng huái gǎn’ēn de xīn): (lit. One should always be grateful)
But it can also be used as an alternative to 多谢 among the younger generation nowadays. Or simply use the gesture below to show your love and gratitude to your friends.
7. 你太好啦 (nǐ tài hǎo la)-You are the best
The first thing to know about this expression is that it should only be used with people who you know really well, such as family or friends. The Chinese translation of ‘you are the best’ is 你太好啦 (Nǐ tài hǎo la) /你对我真好! (nǐ duì wǒ zhēn hǎo!) and it not only expresses gratitude, but it also compliments the other person.
8. 我欠你一个人情 (wǒ qiàn nǐ yīgè rénqíng)-I owe you one
The last casual way to express the gratitude we’re going to talk about is a literal way to say that you plan on paying the other person back for their help. The meaning of the expression is similar to the English sentence ‘I owe you one’ and it conveys gratitude as well as the intention to do something to help the other person as well whenever they might need it.
When Not to Say Thank You in Chinese
Saying ‘thank you’ a lot can be like a routine in Western cultures and oftentimes Chinese foreign speakers don’t notice how often they use this expression. However, in China, overusing words such as ‘thank you’ or ‘please’ it’s not seen as a positive or polite thing to do. This happens because when you express gratitude too often, especially if you’re talking to a friend or somebody you’re close to, the other person might feel like you’re trying to create a formal situation and distance yourself from them by violating your intimacy.
For this reason, it’s better to avoid overusing gratitude expressions, especially when the favor you asked for isn’t something serious or time-consuming.
9. 哪里哪里！(nǎlǐ nǎlǐ!): You’re flattering me
Lastly, if you receive a compliment, in Chinese is common to deflect it regardless of your gender or type of compliment. Remember that behaving humbly is of great importance in Chinese culture, therefore, answering with 谢谢 or other expressions to say ‘thank you’ is not the right thing to do. In these cases, the best solution to appear modest and humble is to deflect the compliment by saying 哪里哪里！(nǎlǐ nǎlǐ!), or 您过奖了！(Nín guòjiǎngle!) an expression that can be translated with ‘you’re flattering me’ or ‘you’re too kind’.
In the alternative, answering to a compliment with 不，不！(Bù, bù!) and waving your hands to say ‘No, no!’ is another good way to come off as humble.
How to Respond to People When They Say Thank You
In order to increase your knowledge of the Chinese language and culture, it’s good to know how to say ‘you are welcome’ in Chinese. The general rule in this kind of situation is to downplay the magnitude of what you did to dismiss someone’s thanks.
- 不客气 (bù kèqì)
- 不用谢 (bùyòng xiè)
- 没事 (méi shì)
- 小意思 (xiǎoyìsi)
- 应该的 (yīnggāi de)
The standard expression that can be used in most situations is 不客气 (Bù kèqì), which literally means ‘don’t be polite’ but can actually be translated with ‘you’re welcome’. A similar solution that has the same meaning as 不客气 is 不用谢 (Bùyòng xiè).
For example, when someone like a business partner expresses gratitude for your actions, you can respond by saying 不用谢，这是我应该做的 (Bùyòng xiè, zhè shì wǒ yīnggāi zuò de) which means ‘no need to thank me, this is my duty’.
Another great way to dismiss someone’s thanks in different situations is using the expression 谢什么呢 (Xiè shénme ne) which basically means ‘thanks for what?’ and can be used to smoothly downplay your actions. As an alternative to express the same meaning, you can also use 没事 (Méi shì) or 小意思 (Xiǎoyìsi) which can be translated with ‘it’s nothing’ or ‘it’s no big deal’.