If you live in China and are still not familiar with the local culture and customs, it is inevitable that you ask your Chinese friends to help you out when you encounter problems related to your daily life. Hence, it’ll be helpful if you have knowledge of some of the commonly-used structures that people use when they need help from others. Let’s find out what they are.
1. 你可以…….吗? (Nǐ kěyǐ … ma?)
This is the most commonly used structure in China when you would like to ask someone to do you a favour. The keyword here is 可以 (kěyǐ), which means “can or may”. Therefore, the literal translation of this structure is “Can you………?”, and the first word 你 (nǐ, “you”) is often omitted.
kě yǐ gěi wǒ yī bēi shuǐ ma?
Can you give me a glass of water?
2. 请…… (Qǐng…)
请 (qǐng) means “please”, and it’s usually followed by a verb to express your desire to ask someone to do something. What you need to bear in mind is that this word never goes at the end of a sentence, which means “Can I have a coffee, please?” should be translated as “Please give me a coffee” in Chinese.
Qǐng kāi mén.
Please open the door.
Qǐng guān chuāng.
Please close the window.
开 (kāi) • to open
关 (guān) • to close
门 (mén) • door
窗 (chuāng) • window
3. 麻烦你…… (Máfan nǐ…)
麻烦 (máfan) means “to bother”, and this structure is a polite way to indicate that you need someone’s help as it translates as “Can I bother you to…….?”
Máfan nǐ zài zhèlǐ qiān zì.
Can you sign here, please?
(= Can I bother you to sign here?)
签字 (qiān zì) • to sign
4. 方便……..吗? (Fāngbiàn … ma)?
The word 方便 (fāngbiàn) means “convenient”, which is a very useful word to describe many things in China, such as WeChat. Therefore, the literal meaning of the whole structure is “Would it be convenient for you to……..?”
Fāngbiàn bāng wǒ mǎi yī gè sānmíngzhì ma?
Would it be ok for you to get me a sandwich?
(lit. “Would it be convenient for you to help me buy a sandwich?”)
帮 (bāng) • to help
买 (mǎi) • to buy
三明治 (sānmíngzhì) • sandwich
5. 劳驾……. (Láojià…)
“劳驾 (láo jià)”, meaning “Excuse me” can hardly be heard in Chinese people’s daily lives as it’s usually used in formal situations. However, you’ll have the opportunity to brag about your Chinese by starting your request with this word.
Láojià, bǎ shū gěi wǒ.
Excuse me, can you give me the book?
书 (shū) • book
We hope you enjoyed reading about how to ask for help in Chinese. Now that you know all that you need to know, we hope you’re able to easily fix all the problems you run into. If you are interested in some common Chinese words that cause confusion, have a read about them here.