How To Give (And Respond To) Compliments In Mandarin Chinese

  • Jasmine Chiam
    Written byJasmine Chiam
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How To Give (And Respond To) Compliments In Mandarin Chinese

One of the best ways to bring a smile to someone’s face is to hand them a compliment.

A language barrier shouldn’t come in the way of you making their day, so let’s learn how to give compliments in Mandarin Chinese!

Giving compliments has become a natural and common part of our social interactions.

They’ve become a great way to kickstart a conversation, and a sincere compliment can go a long way in nurturing new friendships and relationships.

Nonetheless, there are a few differences in how someone would give compliments in Chinese culture compared to Western culture.

For instance, in Chinese culture, a direct compliment from a male about a female’s appearance, particularly about body parts, may be considered impolite. Of course, this may not apply to everyone, but it’s best to read the room and be observant of the other party’s body language.

But giving a compliment is just the start.

Another equally important aspect is knowing how to respond to a compliment. It’s always best to respond in a modest and sincere manner to show gratefulness and respect.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to give and respond to compliments using Mandarin Chinese.

Complimenting a person’s appearance in Mandarin

It may pay off to practice a little caution when complimenting the appearance of someone of the opposite gender. If you’re looking to impress your date, feel free to give it a shot.

And, of course, women absolutely adore compliments from other women about their looks!

Let’s explore some common ways you can hand out compliments about appearance.

你真漂亮! (Nǐ zhēn piàoliang!)

Translation: You’re so beautiful/pretty!

Let’s break that down.

你 (nǐ) means “you,” 真 (zhēn) translates to “very” and 漂亮 (piàoliang) means “pretty.”

You can also swap 真 (zhēn) with 很 (hěn) or 好 (hǎo), which also translates to “very” in this context.

Another alternative to this would be 你好美哦! (Nǐ hǎoměi ó!), meaning, “You’re so beautiful!” 美 (měi) means “pretty”, while 哦 is a sentence-final particle that conveys friendliness and informality in this case.

In China, you may also hear the phrase 美女 (měinǚ) being used to address or compliment a girl. It simply translates to “beautiful girl!”

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try this phrase: 你怎么这么漂亮呀? (Nǐ zěnme zhème piàoliang ya?). It means, “How are you so beautiful?”

Just be careful with the pinyin and your pronunciation.

你真帅! (Nǐ zhēn shuài!)

Translation: You’re so handsome!

Here’s one to compliment your male friends or family.

帅 translates to “handsome,” and you’ll probably hear it very often used in China. Sometimes, you may even hear a stranger call you 帅哥, meaning “handsome man.”

Some people in Taiwan and China enjoy using the phrase 帅哥 a lot, especially when complimenting the youth.

It can somewhat be likened to “young man.”

你真可爱!(Nǐ zhēn kě’ài!)

Translation: You’re so cute!

可爱 is highly versatile, meaning you can use it in numerous situations - for instance, when you see a cute guy, when you meet your friend’s pet dog, or when your family shows you a picture of their kid.

In these cases, 可爱 would be a fitting compliment!

你今天穿得这么好看。(Nǐ jīntiān chuān dé zhème hǎokàn.)

Translation: You’re dressed so attractively today!

The other party may very much appreciate a compliment about their outfit, especially if you notice they had put in extra effort to glam up.

And if your friend or family member is a fashionista or enjoys trying out new styles, this compliment definitely hits the sweet spot!

Other compliments that convey a similar message include the following:

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你穿这身衣服美极了!

Nǐ chuān zhè shēn yīfú měi jíle!
You look so pretty in this outfit!
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你今天穿这身特别好看!

Nǐ jīntiān chuān zhè shēn tèbié hǎokàn!
Your outfit today looks especially great!
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这颜色真的很适合你!

Zhè yánsè zhēn de hěn shìhé nǐ!
This color really suits you!
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你穿的衣服真配你。

Nǐ chuān de yīfú zhēn pèi nǐ.
What you're wearing really suits you.
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今天你的打扮这么好看啊!

Jīntiān nǐ de dǎbàn zhème hǎokàn a!
You dressed up so nicely today!
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你今天的妆容好精致啊!

Nǐ jīntiān de zhuāngróng hǎo jīngzhì a!
Your makeup looks so good today!
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这发型很适合你。

Zhè fǎxíng hěn shìhé nǐ.
This hairstyle suits you very well.
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你今天看起来超有精神的。

Nǐ jīntiān kàn qǐlái chāo yǒu jīngshén de.
You look really lively/vibrant today!

There are many different ways to compliment someone’s appearance.

All it takes is some effort to learn a few and make someone’s day! 😊

Complimenting skills, work, and strengths

Some people may prefer a compliment about their skills and work over one about their appearance, especially in professional settings.

你很专业。(Nǐ hěn zhuānyè.)

Translation: You’re very professional.

Handling work or business-related matters requires a lot of professionalism and wits.

You can make someone’s day by letting them know they were professional throughout the interaction, especially if they’re a service staff or someone you contracted.

这是个很好的主意。(Zhè shìgè hěn hǎo de zhǔyì.)

Translation: This is an extremely good idea!

好 (hǎo) means “good,” while 主意 (zhǔyì) translates to “idea.”

When someone on your team hatches a plan or solution that looks great, you can say to them 这是个很好的主意, or simply cut it short to 好主意!

You’re complimenting their creativity and resourcefulness by letting them know you think their suggestion is fantastic.

Another related compliment is 你很聪明 (nǐ hěn cōngmíng), which means “You’re so smart!” This can be said in response to an innovative or intelligent idea proposed by your teammate or friend.

You may also say this to compliment someone who has done very well in a test or exam.

你的工作表现很出色。(Nǐ de gōngzuò biǎoxiàn hěn chūsè.)

Translation: Your work performance is outstanding.

Letting someone working with you know they’re doing great so far can be extremely encouraging.

In Chinese culture, such compliments about work and performance are highly regarded and appreciated, which may motivate the other party to keep up their excellent performance.

Another way to say this is 我对你的工作表现很满意 (wǒ duì nǐ de gōngzuò biǎoxiàn hěn mǎnyì), which means, “I am very satisfied with your work performance.”

你真有天份!(Nǐ zhēn yǒu tiān fèn!)

Translation: You’re so talented!

If you’d like to compliment someone for their ability or skill, this phrase might come in handy.

It can be used to compliment just about any skill set as you would in English, for instance, being good at art, music, sports, or even cooking.

Some variations of this phrase carry a similar meaning. One would be 你很有天赋 (nǐ hěn yǒu tiānfù). Another is 你很有才华 (nǐ hěn yǒu cáihuá).

真 (zhēn) and 很 (hěn) both translate to “very” or “so” and are interchangeable in this context.

天份, 天赋, and 才华 all translate to “talent” in Mandarin; simply pick and choose which you’re most comfortable with.

你很厉害!(Nǐ hěn lìhài!)

Translation: You’re so good (at this)!

This is one of the most versatile and widely-applicable compliments when it comes to talking about someone’s intellect, skills, or abilities.

You can hand this compliment to someone who has impressed you with their athleticism, musical abilities, knowledge, intelligence, or any sort of skill.

这太好吃了!(Zhè tài hào chīle!)

Translation: This is too delicious!

If someone has taken the time to cook something for you, this phrase will definitely come in handy.

In Chinese culture, complimenting someone’s cooking is one of the best compliments to receive.

It’s bound to bring a huge smile to the other party’s face and shows your gratitude and appreciation for the effort, time, and love they had put into whipping up the meal or dish. 😊

Another way to get the message across is by saying 你做的饭好棒啊 (Nǐ zuò de fàn hǎo bàng a), which is a very casual and friendly way to say, “You’re such a great cook!”

Alternatively, you could go for 我喜欢你做的菜 (Wǒ xǐhuān nǐ zuò de cài), which means “I like your cooking.”

Complimenting personality

Complimenting someone’s personality may feel even more sincere and heartfelt.

Here are a few ways to let someone know you’re a fan of a character trait they have.

你很有幽默感。(Nǐ hěn yǒu yōumò gǎn)

Translation: You have a great sense of humor.

幽默 (yōumò) translates to “humor,” while 幽默感 (yōumò gǎn) translates to “sense of humor.” This one is a fantastic compliment for someone who never fails to make you laugh with their witty remarks and the jokes they crack.

Another similar version of this is 你很幽默 (nǐ hěn yōumò), which means “You’re so funny!”

你很会说话。(Nǐ hěn huì shuōhuà)

Translation: You have a way with words.

This is what we call in English “the gift of the gab.”

Essentially, you’re complimenting someone for having the talent to use a language in a persuasive, eloquent, or charming manner.

Something similar to this would be 你的口才很好 (nǐ de kǒucái hěn hǎo), and this translates to, “You speak very eloquently.” Again, you’re complimenting the person for being able to speak persuasively, fluently, or articulately.

你真有耐心。(Nǐ zhēnyǒu nàixīn.)

Translation: You’re so patient.

This compliment is pretty straightforward. You’ll use it similarly to how you would in English. For instance, you may be complimenting someone for their patience in handling a child or being good-tempered with someone unreasonable.

你真是个好朋友。(Nǐ zhēnshi gè hǎo péngyǒu.)

Translation: You’re such a good friend.

There’s nothing quite like showing your appreciation to your friend by complimenting them for being a good one.

Whether they’ve done a favor for you, lent you a listening ear, or supported you through a difficult season, you can show gratitude and admiration for them by letting them know that you treasure their friendship.

The compliment uses rather basic terms, but one that may look a little unfamiliar is 朋友 (péngyǒu), which translates to “friend.”

How to respond to compliments in Mandarin Chinese

You’ll rarely hear natives respond to a compliment with the standard 谢谢 (xièxiè), which means thank you in Mandarin Chinese.

Most of the time, they’ll deflect the compliment, which conveys humility and courtesy. Here are some ways to naturally respond to compliments using Mandarin.

哪里哪里!(Nǎlǐ nǎlǐ!)

Translation: Not at all!

In Chinese culture, people prefer to be modest and don’t usually brag about their talents or strengths, and 哪里哪里 is a casual way to deflect the compliment.

Here are some other similar ways to say this:

  • 没有没有!(Méi yǒu méi yǒu!)
  • 沒有啦。(Méi yǒu la.)
  • 哪有!(Nǎ yǒu!)

These phrases generally convey the meaning of “no,” “not at all,” or “that’s not the case.”

If someone has specifically complimented a talent or skill you have, you can say any of the following:

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没有那么厉害吧!

Méiyǒu nàme lìhài ba!
I'm not that great!
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我没那么好!

Wǒ méi nàme hǎo!
I'm not that good!
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还行吧。

Hái xíng ba.
It's alright.
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还好吧。

Hái hǎo ba.
It's alright.
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还差得远呢。

Hái chà dé yuǎn ne.
I'm far from it.

You can use these phrases in various situations, for instance, if someone has complimented your Mandarin speaking skills.

你过奖了。(Nǐ guòjiǎngle.)

Translation: You flatter me.

One phrase that can really showcase your Mandarin skills is this one.

You can also shorten this sentence in conversations to make it sound more natural, such as 过奖 (guòjiǎng) or 过奖了 (guòjiǎng le).

Some other phrases that convey a similar meaning are as follows:

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你过誉了!

Nǐ guòyùle!
You're exaggerating!
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你太夸张了!

Nǐ tài kuāzhāngle!
You're exaggerating!
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不敢当!

Bù gǎndāng.
I don't deserve your praise.

The first two are more often used in casual settings, while the last phrase is typically utilized more in formal conversations.

你也不错啊!(Nǐ yě bùcuò a!)

Translation: You’re not too bad yourself!

Another polite way to respond to a compliment is to return the compliment to the other party.

This sentence can be used in a variety of ways, especially when someone has complimented you for being good at something, such as a certain language or sport.

A phrase that may be used similarly is 你也是 (nǐ yěshì), which means “You, too.” For instance, if you’re at a party and someone tells you that you look great, you can return the compliment by saying this phrase.

There are many ways to give someone a compliment in Mandarin Chinese

You can compliment their outfit, skills, talent, work, and even their character traits or personality.

This is a great way to break the ice or establish better rapport, but you do need to be thoughtful of how and who you compliment.


Know of any other popular ways to compliment someone using Mandarin Chinese?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
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