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How to Shop for Clothing in Mandarin (Part Two) Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 in Culture

In the last post, we went over some useful language for clothes shopping in China. Now that you know a bunch of clothing related vocabulary, a few important measure words, and some common questions/answers, it’s time to bargain a bit, pay up, and get home to try on your new fly gear! Let’s get started…

How much is it?

No matter where you’re shopping or what you’re shopping for, this question is bound to come up. Well, let’s start with the most basic form of the question:

How much? (多少钱?- duō shǎo qián)

That’s too easy, though! Show off your Chinese skills with a little more advanced form of the question:

How much is this? (这个多少钱?- zhè ge duō shǎo qián)

As we discussed in the last post, 个 is just a catch-all measure word. If you’re not sure which word to use, it’s fine to just use 个 all the time. However, this shows your Chinese skills are a bit lackluster. Practice using the correct measure word and you can be on your way to speaking more fluently:

How much is this skirt?

(这件裙子多少钱? – zhè jiàn qún zi duō shǎo qián)

With better Chinese language skills, you’re sure to get a better price! I’ve even been told by one vendor in a clothing market, “You only got this price because you spoke Chinese! If you didn’t, the price would be double!” Don’t be a dumb 老外 and do everything in English – the shopkeepers appreciate it if you speak their language, even if you aren’t very good at it. Still, you might not always agree with the price…

It’s too expensive!

Don’t be surprised when shopping in clothing markets if you are quoted prices that seem way too high. Plenty of naive foreigners take the first price offered every single day, so of course the local vendors are going to start off with an outrageous price; after all, what do they have to lose? There’s one phrase that you’ll need to know in this situation:

It’s too expensive! (太贵了 – tài guì le)

Actually, this is a very useful Chinese grammar point. The expression 太 + adj. + 了 can be used in so many ways. Here are a few more examples:

It’s too small! (太小了 – tài xiǎo le)

It’s too big! (太大了 – tài dà le)

It’s too hot! (太热了 – tài rè le)

They’re too long! 太长了 – tài cháng le)

Practice your listening and pronunciation by following this useful video about shopping/bargaining.

You don’t always get quoted a super-high price, either. Sometimes, it’s just a little expensive. There’s a better phrase to use in those situations:

It’s a little expensive. (有点贵 – yǒu diǎn guì)

This structure can also be repeated with different adjectives as the one above – just use the formula 有点 + adj.

Now that you’ve shown your disapproval of the price, how do you go about bargaining? In most markets in China, bargaining is not only accepted, it’s expected!

How to Bargain

When shopping for clothes in Chinese markets, it’s essential that you have some bargaining skills. Chances are you’re buying knock-off goods that aren’t exactly great quality, so you’d better at least get a good price! Here are some useful phrases to help you bargain like a champ:

Can you give me a cheaper price?

(可以给我便宜点吗?- kě yǐ gěi wǒ pián yi diǎn ma)

Can you give me a discount?

(你可以给我有折扣吗?- nǐ kě yǐ gěi wǒ yǒu zhé kòu ma)

I didn’t bring enough money.

(我带的钱不够 – wǒ dài de qián bù gòu)

I’m a student, I don’t have any money!

(我是学生,没钱了! – wǒ shì xué shēng, méi qián le)

You’re cheating me!

(你欺骗我 – nǐ qī piàn wǒ)

Of course, not all of these can be used all the time; you probably won’t get away with saying you’re a student if you’ve got grey hair. Also, use the last one with caution, as you may anger the seller and make them lose face.

This video is a little high on the cheese-scale, but it shows a real tourist clothing market in China plus a few of these phrases in action.

Now that you’ve agreed upon a price, it’s time to pay up.

Paying

When paying for your goods, sometimes you have a choice between paying cash (现金 – xiàn jīn) or using a credit card (信用卡 – xìn yòng kǎ). Usually the seller will just ask you:

Do you want to pay by cash or credit card?

(你要付现金还是刷卡? – nǐ yào fù xiàn jīn hái shì shuā kǎ)

Of course, you can answer either way:

I want to pay cash. (我要付现金 – wǒ yào fù xiàn jīn)

I want to use a credit card. (我要刷卡 – wǒ yào shuā kǎ)

If they don’t ask you if you want to use a card, you’ll have to ask them yourself:

Can I use a credit card?

(我可以用信用卡吗? – wǒ kě yǐ yòng xìn yòng kǎ ma)

A lot of tourist markets these days will take a card, but China is still very much a cash based country. Don’t be surprised if you hear:

We don’t accept credit cards.

(我们不接受信用卡 – wǒ men bù jiē shòu xìn yòng kǎ)

If you forgot to bring some cash along and the shop doesn’t take your card, you may have to find an ATM:

Where’s the nearest ATM?

(最近的自动取款机在哪里? – zuì jìn de zì dòng qǔ kuǎn jī zài nǎ lǐ)

This video from FluentU is all in Chinese with no subtitles, but the actors speak very clearly and slowly. At least watch it a few times for the practice!

After this series, you should be able to shop and bargain for clothes like a pro in China. Don’t stop there with your Chinese, though, as you can learn a new word every day with us!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


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