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客气(kèqi) or 不客气(bú kèqi), that is the question! (Elementary)

Oct. 19, 2012

For Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to be, or not to be: that is the question. Here in Chinese learning, 客气(kèqi) or 不客气(bú kèqi), that is the question! Please look at the following conversation to see when it is 客气(kèqi) or 不客气(bú kèqi).

    Zhōngwén de "bú kèqi" shì shénme yìsi, yìbān zài shénme shíhou yòng ne?
A:    中文       的  “不客气”  是   什么   意思,一般 在    什么       时候     用    呢? 


     What does "不客气(bú kèqi)" mean and when is it used?

    Dāng biérén duì nĭ shuō "xièxie" shí, nĭ jiù yào shuō "bú kèqi." Yìsi jiù shì nĭ hĕn yuànyì wèi
B:   当     别人   对   你 说     “谢谢” 时,你 就 要     说   “不客气”。意思  就 是 你  很    愿意   为   

    bié  rén zuòshì, bú yòng xiè le.
    别    人    做事,不   用    谢 了。


   You should say "不客气(bú kèqi)" as a response when someone says "谢谢(xièxie)" to you. It       means that you are happy to help others and don't require thanks.

    Nà gāngcái Tom méiyŏu shuō "xièxie," wèi shénme tā lăoshī shuō "bú kèqi?" 
A: 那    刚才   Tom   没有     说     “谢谢”,为     什么   他  老师     说   “不客气”?


    But Tom didn't say "谢谢(xièxie)" just now, so why did his teacher say "不客气(bú kèqi)" to     him?

    Ò? Nà Tom de lăoshī zĕnme shuō de? 
B: 哦?那 Tom  的  老师    怎么     说   的?


     Really? What did his teacher say?

    Rúguŏ nĭ zài găn chídào, wŏ jiù duì nĭ bú kèqi le! 
A: 如果    你 再  敢    迟到, 我  就 对  你 不 客气了!


     If you are late again, I won't be so easy on you. OK!

Do you have any idea why the teacher said 不客气(bú kèqi) to Tom? This is the question of  客气(kèqi) or 不客气(bú kèqi) in learning Chinese.

Generally speaking, 客气(kèqi) is used in the following three situations:

1. When being thanked

When someone says thank you, you can respond by saying 客气(kèqi), which, in this case, is the same as 不客气(bú kèqi).

For example:

    Xièxie nǐ bāng wǒ.
A: 谢谢    你  帮   我。


    Thank you for helping me.

    Nǐ zhēn kèqi.
B: 你   真   客气。


    You are welcome.

2. In response to politeness and/or courtesy

For example:

Tā wéi rén hěn kèqi.
他  为   人   很   客气。


He is very polite.

3. When showing modesty

For example:

    Nǐ  jiā de fángzi dásǎo de zhēn gānjìng.
A: 你 家  的  房子   打 扫  的  真      干净。 


    Your house is clean and tidy.

    Kèqi le.
B: 客气 了。 


    Thank you. / You're too kind.

不客气(bú kèqi) is the negative form of 客气(kèqi). It is used as follows:

1. When being thanked

In this situation, 客气(kèqi) and 不客气(bú kèqi)are almost exactly the same. The difference lies in the level of intimacy among the people in the conversation. Friends or acquaintances always use客气(kèqi, while in formal relations, 不客气(bú kèqiis more commonly used.

For example:

                 Xièxiè nǐ  yōuzhì  de  fúwù.
Consumer: 谢谢  你   优质    的  服务。 


                Thank you for your excellent service.

                Bú kèqi
Waitress: 不  客气。 


                 You're welcome.

2. Expressing that one should feel at ease

For example: Lily invited her classmates to her home for a party. At the party, she told them: 好好玩!别客气!(Hǎo hǎo wán! Bié kèqi!) which in English means enjoy yourselves and feel at ease. Here, "别(bié)" means "don't." Literally, this sentence means, "don't be polite."

3. Making someone uneasy or giving someone a warning

This usage always conveys a warning and can often have a threatening tone. In the conversation between the teacher and student above, the teacher told Tom “if you are late again, I won't be so easy on you.” This is the teacher’s warning to Tom.

For example:

Nǐ yào shì gǎn dǎ wǒ érzi, wǒ jiù duì nǐ bú kèqi.
你  要   是  敢   打 我儿子,我 就 对  你 不 客气。 


If you dare to hit my son, I will not go easy on you.

客气(kèqi) or 不客气(bú kèqi), is it still a question for you? I hope not; but, to check your understanding, below are a few comprehension questions.

Drill yourself here:

1. If someone is very polite to people, how can we describe him or her in Chinese?

A. 不客气 !(Bú kèqi!)                                              B. 他待人很客气。(Tā dài rén hěn kèqi.)

C. 她待人不客气。(Tā dài rén bú kèqi.)                    D. 我就对你不客气!(Wǒ jiù duì nǐ bú kèqi.)

2. Which one of the following is used to give someone a warning?

A. 你客气了。(Nǐ kèqi le.)                                         B. 你真客气呀!(Nǐ zhēn kèqi ya!)

C. 我就对你不客气! (Wǒ jiù duì nǐ bú kèqi!)              D. 别客气!(Bié kèqi!)

Answers: 1. B       2. C

Got questions? Take a Free 1-on-1 live online lesson with our professional teachers from China.


I love Shakespeare; I like Hamlet and MacBeth the best but I like all the plays. I enjoyed this everyday practical lesson including to say you are welcome.Most every time it’s bu kechi.I enjoy it even though I need so much practice.I practice some everyday. Thank you, Sincerely, Jeff Alexander

Thanks for posting. I liked it.
-USA Girl
Student of English.
Wiser of the road less travelled..

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