Have you ever needed to reject a request in Chinese but you don’t want people to “lose face” and feel they’ve been “turned down”? Well, there are many ways to say no in Chinese without being rude. Next time when you feel the need to say no way or not okay in Chinese, try one of these expressions to tone it down a little bit!
How to Say No in Chinese
pinyin. bù literal. no liberal. no
The one simple character to say no in Chinese is 不, but a lot of the times, if you only say 不, it could sound impolite.
How to Say No in Chinese Gracefully
pinyin. bú yòng le literal. no need liberal. you don’t have to
When someone suggests something and you want to say “you don’t have to“, you can say 不用了. It is very useful when someone offers you something but you don’t feel it’s necessary or you don’t feel comfortable accepting it.
pinyin. bú bì le literal. not needed liberal. you don’t have to
不必了 means the same as 不用了, but it is a less casual way to say no in Chinese. You might hear 不必了 more from movies or TV shows than in real life.
pinyin. yòng bù zháo literal. need not liberal. you don’t have to
Another way to say no in Chinese when you have to refuse someone’s offer is 用不着. It’s very casual – try this one when you want to be nice but not super polite.
pinyin. suàn le ba literal. (maybe) forget about it liberal. ah, maybe not
There are times when people say something and you feel like saying “no way“! But you might want to avoid saying no way in Chinese, where being mild and indirect is the key to the culture. 算了吧 literally means “to forget about it”, but it’s actually a way nicer and more acceptable way to turn down a suggestion or request.
pinyin. bú yào ba literal. do not liberal. maybe no / please don’t
Try 不要吧 for situations like these:
to turn down a request nicely without saying I don’t want it 我不想要 (+ something) wǒ bù xiǎng yào or I don’t want to 我不想 (+ to do something) wǒ bù xiǎng
when someone wants to do something and you would prefer them not to
pinyin. bù xíng ba literal. (maybe) not okay liberal. it might not be possible
不行吧 is a good way to say no way in Chinese, because it will make it sound like idea might not work, instead of you not being OK with it. With the modal particle 吧, 不行吧 sounds nicer than 不行. Actually when you say 不行 with an annoyed intonation, it might sound like an unfriendly no way in Chinese.
pinyin. nà nǎr xíng ‘a literal. (how could) that be okay liberal. (I can’t let) that (happen and) be ok
那哪儿行啊 is a rhetorical question, suggesting that you don’t think it’s okay. To make it sound nice and gentle, intonation is key. Speaking slower and more reluctant would help it to sound gentler.
How to Say It’s Not Okay in Chinese to Reject A Request
pinyin. bú tài hǎo ba literal. not too good liberal. it might not be the best thing to do
Again, we are using 吧, the useful modal particle, added at the end of a sentence to make it sound more mild and less pressing. 不太好吧 means that you don’t think it’s a good idea but you’re (or at least you want to sound like you’re) open to other people’s opinions as well. Also you can add 这个 zhè ge this (one) or 这样 zhè yàng this way at the beginning of the sentence and say 这个不太好吧 or 这样不太好吧 to mean “this might not work”.
pinyin. bú tài kě néng ba literal. (this might) not (be) very possible liberal. probably not (gonna work)
If you say 不太可能, you’re saying “it’s not gonna work“, but if you say 不太可能吧, it’s more like you’re saying “it’s probably not gonna work“.
pinyin. bú tài fāng biàn ba literal. not very convenient liberal. it might not be very convenient
When you want to say it’s not okay in Chinese, try explain it a little bit by saying 不太方便吧, meaning that the reason why you have to say no is because the situation makes it inconvenient or difficult for you to do so.