Mandarin Grammar

Express Apology

Learning Objectives

  • Learn to express gratitude and say goodbye.

  • Learn some appropriate responses to the gratitude.

Learning Video

Additional Notes

How to express apologies in Mandarin?

There are many ways to say an “apology” in Mandarin Chinese, we can use different forms of apologies under different situation, including "对不起, duì bù qǐ ", " 抱歉, bào qiàn " and " 不好意思,  bù hǎo yì sī ".

First, it is the most common o say an apology in Mandarin Chinese using “对不起, duì bù qǐ”, it means “sorry”. duì bù qǐ often uses as a way to apologize for something or someone. duì bù qǐ is widely used in different situations, such as physical collision with someone, inappropriate behavior, not performing something well and so on.

Let see some examples on using "对不起, duì bù qǐ ".

  • Did I step on your foot? Sorry!

  • I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation.

  • I’m sorry. My Mandarin is not very well.

Second, apart from saying - "对不起, duì bù qǐ "to express an apology to a person,we can also use "抱歉, bào qiàn", it has the same meaning of "sorry" as well. However, bào qiàn is less widely spoken than duì bù qǐ in daily Mandarin Chinese.

Here are some examples on using - "抱歉, bào qiàn":

  • I’m sorry, I’m late.

  • I’m sorry, my boss is not here today.

Lastly, let’s talk about a third way of saying an apology in Mandarin Chinese. Have you ever heard - "不好意思, bù hǎo yì sī ?".  In English, it means “sorry” as well.

"不好意思, bù hǎo yì sī" is often used to deny or reject a suggestion from a person.

For examples,

  • How about we go to the cinema together tonight?

  • I’m sorry, I am not available tonight,

  • I have been engaged already.

How to respond to expressions of apology?

You could reply in three common ways, including "没关系, méi guān xì", "没事, méi shì", and "不要紧,  bù yào jǐn".

All 3 phases of the responses have the same meaning never mind”, “don’t mention it”, or “it’s doesn’t matter” in English.

"没关系, méi guān xì" - is mostly used in written and responding to a person whom you are not familiar with.

“没事, méi shì” is often used in spoken and responding to a person whom you are familiar with.

“不要紧, bù yào jǐn” has the same meaning of  “méi guān xì” and “méi shì”, but it is less used in daily Mandarin Chinese.

For examples,

When a person is stepping on your foot on the street and apologies to you:

  • Did I step on your foot? Sorry!

  • You could respond: 没关系, méi guān xì

When your friend is late for your party, he apologies by saying:

  • I’m sorry, I’m late.

  • You could respond: “没事, méi shì”