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Polite requests with "qing"

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To be more polite in English, we add the word "please" onto our requests. In Chinese, the word 请 (qǐng) serves the same purpose.

Simple Requests

In its most simple form, a polite request can consist of only two words.

Structure

请 + Verb

Examples

  • 进 。Qǐng jìn.Please come in.
  • 坐 。Qǐng zuò.Please sit down.
  • 说 。Qǐng shuō.Please speak.

Longer Requests

Obviously, those requests may be significantly longer.

Structure

请 (+ 你) + Verb Phrase

Examples

  • 喝 茶 。Qǐng hē chá.Please have some tea.
  • 不要 迟到 。Qǐng bùyào chídào.Please do not be late.
  • 尝 一 尝 。Qǐng cháng yī cháng.Please have a taste.
  • 你 说 得 慢 一点 。Qǐng nǐ shuō de màn yīdiǎn.Please speak more slowly.
  • 你 听 老师 的 话 。Qǐng nǐ tīng lǎoshī de huà.Please listen to the teacher.
  • 你 离开 。Qǐng nǐ líkāi.Please leave.

The phrase 请问 (qǐngwèn) is a set expression meaning not "please ask," but rather, "may I ask." It frequently comes before asking for directions or other polite requests for information.

  • 问 , 洗手间 在 哪里 。Qǐng wèn, xǐshǒujiān zài nǎlǐ?Excuse me, where is the restroom?

Being Polite without 请 (qǐng)

You may have noticed that the Chinese themselves do not use 请 (qǐng) nearly as much as we use the word "please" in English. It's not because Chinese people are rude; it's because the word 请 (qǐng) feels rather formal in Chinese, and most people don't feel the need to use it with family members, friends, or even co-workers.

Here are some other ways to start make a request to still be polite, but less in a less formal way:

  • 可 不 可以 …… ?kě bu kěyǐ…?Could you...?
  • 能 不 能 …… ?néng bu néng…?Can you...?
  • 麻烦 你 …… Máfan nǐ…Can I trouble you to... (?)

More Advanced Uses of 请 (qǐng)

Aside from this "please" usage, the word 请 (qǐng) has some additional uses not covered here. It can mean "to invite," or "to treat (someone to a meal)," and can even be used as a causative verb. None of those uses are covered here.

Sources and further reading