Many Chinese resources do not comprehensively cover the different ways you can ask for help or assistance.
We’ll explore how you can seek help in two general contexts.
Firstly, we’ll look at phrases you can use when asking for a small favor or assistance for a minor issue.
Secondly, we’ll also cover phrases to use when met with dire and possibly life-threatening situations.
Here are some essential phrases you can use to ask for help in Mandarin Chinese.
General phrases to ask for help
There are general phrases you can use in multiple situations, but the catch is this - you’ll have to express what you’d need help with, or the other party will be left bewildered.
In this sense, you’ll need to broaden your vocabulary to cover some everyday things you may need help with.
The table below lists some everyday tasks and activities that someone may help you with.
|Task/Activity||Chinese Characters||Chinese Pinyin|
|Buy a cup of coffee||买一杯咖啡||Mǎi yībēi kāfēi|
|Take a photo||拍张照片||Pāi zhāng zhàopiàn|
|Open the door||开门||Kāimén|
|Walk my dog||遛狗||Liú gǒu|
|Buy groceries||买杂货||Mǎi záhuò|
|Send me home||送我回家||Sòng wǒ huí jiā|
Let’s explore the general phrases we can use to request help from someone else
麻烦你… (máfan nǐ…)
English meaning: May I trouble you to…
The first phrase you can use is 麻烦你… (máfan nǐ…), which literally means “Trouble you.”
This phrase could be a way to thank a person for help, as 麻烦你了 (má fan nǐ le) means “Sorry to trouble you.”
This phrase can be used when speaking to friends and family.
However, adding something else behind that phrase is one way to ask someone else to do you a favor. For instance, if you’d like someone to send you home, you can say something along the lines of 麻烦你送我回家 (máfan nǐ sòng wǒ huí jiā), which means, “Could I bother you to send me home?”
You may also use this phrase when speaking with clients, someone new, or your boss when you need them to perform a task such as signing a document.
Also see our guide on how to say sorry in Chinese.
你能帮我…吗? (Nǐ néng bāng wǒ…ma?)
English meaning: Could you help me?
This is one of the most basic phrases you can use to ask for help. 帮 (bāng) translates to “help” in English, while 能 (néng) means “can.”
Essentially, you are asking the person if they’re able to help you with something.
You csn slot in the task you need help with after the 我 (wǒ) before ending the question with the question particle 吗 (ma).
This phrase isn’t suitable to be used in an emergency.
In contrast, it is often used when asking a friend or family member to help with a favor. For instance, you can say 你能帮我遛狗吗? (nǐ néng bāng wǒ liú gǒu ma?), meaning “Could you help me walk my dog?”
There are numerous variations of this phrase.
The first one is 你介意帮我…吗? (nǐ jièyì bāng wǒ… ma?), which means “Would you mind helping me…?”. Other than that, you may also hear 你可以帮我…吗? (nǐ kěyǐ bāng wǒ… ma?). This is translated to “Could you help me…?” These phrases are frequently interchangeable.
When requesting assistance from a stranger, one of the most useful phrases to add to your arsenal is 不好意思 (bù hǎoyìsi).
This means “Excuse me.” It is a polite way to interrupt a stranger and ask for a small favor.
You can use this phrase before letting them know what you need help with.
你能帮我一下吗? (nǐ néng bāng wǒ yīxià ma?)
English meaning: Could you help me for a short while?
If you’d like their help with a small task, you can say 你能帮我一下吗? (nǐ néng bāng wǒ yīxià ma?), which translates to “Could you help me for a while?” or “Could you help me with something quick?”.
When they reply with a 当然了 (dāng rán le) or something along the lines of a “yes,” make sure to specify what you’ll need help with.
Sometimes, you may also hear people say 你能帮我个忙吗? (nǐ néng bāng wǒ gè máng ma?).
This means “Could you help me with a favor?” or “Could you lend me a hand?” Once more, you’ll have to follow this up with what you’d need help with.
English meaning: Please
If you’d like to use a phrase that conveys respect and politeness, this is it.
It can be used in formal situations or when you’re speaking to someone you’ve just met or a person with a higher status. This phrase can be used when you’re asking someone to help you with a task, for example, closing the door.
You can say 请关门 (qǐng guānmén), which means “Please close the door.”
On top of that, this phrase can also be used as an invitation to do something.
For instance, if you’d like a guest to sit and make themselves at home, you can use the simple phrase 请 坐 (qǐng zuò), which translates to “Please have a seat.”
If you’d like someone to sign a document, then you can say something along the lines of 请在这里签名 (qǐng zài zhèlǐ qiānmíng), which means “Please sign here.”
Asking for help with directions
Knowing how to as for directions can come in handy when visiting a foreign country.
If you’re asking for directions, one way you can politely do this is to start your conversation with 请问 (qǐngwèn).
问 translates to “ask,” and we’ve covered that 请 means “please.”
However, 请问 doesn’t mean “please ask.” Instead, it could be likened to “may I ask” in English.
If you’d like to know how to get to a certain location, you can say 请问…在哪里? (qǐngwèn… zài nǎlǐ?). This means “May I ask where… is?”
Insert the place you’d like to ask directions for in the middle of the sentence.
As an example, if you’d like to go to the bus station, you can say 请问公交车站在哪里? (qǐngwèn gōngjiāo chē zhàn zài nǎlǐ?).
Another polite way to ask for directions is by saying 你知道怎么去…吗? (nǐ zhīdào zěnme qù… ma?). What this means is “Do you know how to get to…?”
If you’d like to get directions to the library, for instance, you can say 不好意思。(bù hǎoyìsi) 你知道怎么去图书馆吗? (nǐ zhīdào zěnme qù túshū guǎn ma?).
不好意思 serves as a polite way to interrupt a stranger, and your request for directions follows this up.
You may use 请问 instead of 不好意思 for such cases as well.
If you need help with locating the nearest public restroom, you can say 这里附近有公共厕所吗? (zhèlǐ fùjìn yǒu gōnggòng cèsuǒ ma?). This translates to “Is there a public toilet nearby?”
附近 (fùjìn) means “nearby,” while 公共厕所 (gōnggòng cèsuǒ) translates to “public toilet”.
These four characters can be removed and replaced with other locations and places to fit the context.
Asking for help in an emergency
Being able to ask for help while you’re in an emergency setting could save your life or someone else’s.
The most basic way to ask for help in a critical situation is by using the phrase 救命啊! (jiùmìng a!).
It translates literally to “save life,” but more accurately means “Help!” This phrase is reserved for possibly life-threatening circumstances where you’ll need immediate help.
Avoid using it when asking for a simple favor from a friend.
Another way you can ask for help is 请帮帮我! (qǐng bāng bāng wǒ!), which means “Please help me!”
You may also encounter medical emergencies when traveling abroad.
The following are commonly used words you may wish to learn to indicate what you need during such situations.
|Medical-related terms||Chinese Characters||Pinyin|
If you’d like someone to help you call an ambulance, you can say 请叫救护车 (qǐng jiào jiùhù chē), which means “Please call an ambulance.” 请 means “please,” while 叫 means “call.”
Say you’re looking for directions to the hospital.
In that case, you can apply what we’ve learned previously. The sentence you can use is 你知道怎么去医院吗? (nǐ zhīdào zěnme qù yīyuàn ma?), which means, “Do you know how to get to the hospital?”
Another way you can ask for directions would be 请问医院在哪里? (qǐngwèn yīyuàn zài nǎlǐ?), and this means, “May I ask where the hospital is?”
Additionally, if you’ve run into some trouble and require some assistance in calling the police, you can say 请给警察打电话 (qǐng gěi jǐngchá dǎ diànhuà), which means “Please call the police.”
You may be asked for more details about your situation in any emergency.
In such circumstances, you may use these phrases as you deem fit.
It’s always best to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.
Learning a few of these basic phrases will allow you to communicate and seek help in emergencies.
How to offer help in Mandarin Chinese
If you happen to catch sight of someone who needs help, you may ask them if they require your assistance by using the question 你需要我的帮助吗? (nǐ xūyào wǒ de bāngzhù ma?), and this essentially means, “Do you need my help?” You can shorten it by omitting the 你 at the front.
This then becomes 需要帮助吗? (xūyào bāngzhù ma?), which has the same meaning.
Another more casual variation of this would be 要我帮忙吗? (yào wǒ bāngmáng ma?).
This translates to “Want my help?”
Thanking someone for their help
Now that you’ve learned how to ask for and offer help, picking up an essential phrase (or two) to thank someone for their help would come in handy!
The most basic way to say “thank you” in Mandarin Chinese is 谢谢 (xièxiè) and 谢谢你 (xièxiè nǐ).
Both these phrases are interchangeable, but 谢谢你 may be considered a more formal and polite way of thanking a person.
Key points to asking for help in Mandarin Chinese
The phrases you use are context-dependent.
Some phrases can be used for minor inconveniences. In contrast, other sentences are more suitable for emergencies, as they can convey urgency and the need for immediate assistance.
Essentially, you’ll never know when you need help.
To sum things up, a general phrase you can use to ask for help is 你能帮我吗? (nǐ néng bāng wǒ ma?).
If you find yourself in an emergency, you can say 请帮帮我! (qǐng bāng bāng wǒ!).
This phrase is has a more general application compared to 救命! (jiùmìng a), which is usually reserved for situations where your life is in danger.
Once you’ve learned the different ways to ask for help in Mandarin Chinese, you can learn the various ways to thank someone in Mandarin Chinese as well.
Being able to thank someone in a language they understand will help you convey your gratitude and thankfulness.
Know of any other ways to ask for help in Mandarin Chinese?
Let me know in the comments below!