Chinese Language Blog

How to Respond to Compliments in Chinese Posted by on Jun 2, 2020 in Culture, Vocabulary

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In Chinese culture, modesty is viewed as a virtue. It is an inherent part of the Confucian beliefs which emphasize the group over the individual. One of the daily aspects in which Chinese modesty is reflected is the way Chinese receive and respond (回应huí yìng) to a compliment (赞美zàn měi).

While a simple thank you is considered a polite response in the western culture, it is uncommon to answer a compliment in China with 谢谢 (xiè xiè, thank you). Depreciatory expressions (谦词qiān cí) are usually used when responding to praise in Chinese. There are many ways to deflect a compliment (不接受赞美bù jiē shòu zàn měi) in Chinese.


The common Chinese response to praise will be disagreeing. Many short phrases to refute the compliment, meaning no, not at all, it’s not true, can be used:

没有没有 (méi yǒu méi yǒu)

沒有啦 (méi yǒu la)

哪里哪里 (nǎ lǐ nǎ lǐ)

哪有 (nǎ yǒu)

哪儿的话 (nǎ er de huà)

These phrases are general and work for any compliment. They can be changed to a specific response, by adding an adjective to the negative pattern. For example, if someone compliments your Chinese skills:


Nǐ de hàn yǔ shuō dé hěn hǎo!

Your Chinese is good!

You can respond the compliment by saying:


Méi yǒu nà me hǎo/lì hài.

Not that good.


Other phrases to modestly refute the compliment are:

还行吧 (hái xíng ba) means it’s alright, I guess

还好吧 (hái hǎo ba) means it’s alright, I guess

还不够好 (hái bù gòu hǎo) means it’s still not good enough

还差得远呢 (hái chà dé yuǎn ne) means I’m still really far off


Phrases with the meaning of you flatter me, which express that the compliment bestowed is overestimating can be used:

你太夸张了 (nǐ tài kuā zhāng le) means you exaggerate too much

你太客气了 (nǐ tài kè qì le) means you are too polite

你过奖了 (nǐ guò jiǎng le) means you speak too highly of me

不敢当 (bù gǎn dāng) literally means I dare not bear (this honor/this title), and figuratively means I don’t deserve your praise


Another polite response to a compliment in Chinese is returning the compliment. General phrases that mean you are good too can be used:

你也不错啊 (nǐ yě bù cuò a)

你也不赖哦 (nǐ yě bù lài ó)

Returning the compliment doesn’t necessary require a fixed pattern. If someone, for example, compliments your dressing style, you can in response compliment his outfit:


Nǐ jīn tiān yě dǎ bàn zhè me hǎo kàn a!

You dressed up nice today!


Another typically Chinese polite way to push the compliment away is by sharing the credit. When receiving a compliment, instead of responding with a thank you, the receiver thanks someone else. If, for example, someone compliments your Chinese skills, you can answer:


Shì wǒ de zhōng wén lǎo shī jiāo de hǎo.

It’s just that my teacher is really good.

If, for another example, someone compliments your new dress, you can answer:


Zhè jiàn yī fú shì péng yǒu bāng zhe wǒ yī qǐ xuǎn de.

My friend helped me choose this fabric.




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