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).
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
Tā wéi rén hěn kèqi.
他 为 人 很 客气。
He is very polite.
3. When showing modesty
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.
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 kèqi) is more commonly used.
In formal relations, learn how to address him or her respectfully
Xièxiè nǐ yōuzhì de fúwù.
Consumer: 谢谢 你 优质 的 服务。
Thank you for your excellent service.
Waitress: 不 客气。
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.
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
Take more tests to distinguish Chinese words: