Polite requests with "qing"
To be more polite in English, we add the word "please" onto our requests. In Chinese, the word 请 (qǐng) serves the same purpose.
In its most simple form, a polite request can consist of only two words.
请 + Verb
- 请 进 。Please come in.
- 请 坐 。Please sit down.
- 请 说 。Please speak.
Obviously, those requests may be significantly longer.
请 (+ 你) + Verb Phrase
- 请 喝 茶 。Please have some tea.
- 请 不要 迟到 。Please do not be late.
- 请 尝 一 尝 。Please have a taste.
- 请 你 说 得 慢 一点 。Please speak more slowly.
- 请 你 听 老师 的 话 。Please listen to the teacher.
- 请 你 离开 。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.
- 请问 ， 洗手间 在 哪里 。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:
- 你 可 不 可以 …… ？Could you...?
- 你 能 不 能 …… ？Can you...?
- 麻烦 你 …… 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.