Yes is a very useful word to learn in any language. You use it to show you agree, to show your enthusiasm, to seal a deal and in many many different situations. As a Chinese learner, you were surely taught that while there is no direct equivalent to Yes in Chinese, 是 is an acceptable substitute. But there is more!
It is, as in this
这是你的书吗? 是的 zhè shì nǐ de shū ma? Shì de Is this your book? Yes, it is.
But if you watch videos and movies in Chinese, you’ll soon come to realize that 是的 doesn’t always pop up in a “yes” situation and that there is a bunch of different ways to say yes in Mandarin Chinese. So why not try new expressions to say yes ? They will make you really sound like a native speaker.
In this article, you’re going to learn 7 easy yet useful ways to say Yes in Mandarin Chinese. These expressions are all very frequently used in everyday life so there’s no doubt that you’ll get to practice them a lot. Just get ready to say yes!
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An easy and basic word to say yes in Chinese: 是
是: ”Shì”; Yes
Let’s start with 是, the word with which you are likely the most familiar. And with reason too, as 是 is the most basic word in Chinese to say yes.
As an adjective, 是 means “right; correct” whether you’re sure about it or just think it might be correct. Nowadays, 是 is mostly used to check things, for example, to ask if somebody did something or to ascertain something.
- You’re looking for someone.
Qǐngwèn nǐ shì lín xiānshēng ma?
Shì de, wǒ shì.
Yes, I am Mr. Lin.
- You’ve run out of cold milk.
Bīngxiāng lǐ de niúnǎi shì shuí hē wán de?
Who drunk all the milk in the fridge?
Shì Linda (hē wán de).
Need a quick confirmation? 是 is your guy.
When you want to show your support: 没错 / 对
没错: méi cuò; That’s right. 对: duì; Yes / Right没错 méi cuò and 对 duì are 2 expressions to use when you want to show someone they said something you agree with. 对 means « correct » in Chinese, so it is easy to understand why it can be used as a Yes. It’s very similar to « right » in English. 没错, if translated word by word, means « not wrong ». As such, it is frequently used as a way to say “that’s right”.
In some cases, 没错 and 对 can be used instead of 是. For instance, in the example we used before, the expression « 是的 » can be replaced by 对 or by 没错, because in this case both 对 and 没错 mean the same thing as 是的. Why’s that?
Well, to help you understand the use of 没错 and 对 in this situation, just think of the question “Are you Mr. Lin ?” as the first question of a pop quiz ; to which you give the right answer (yes).
Let’s give 没错 and 对 a try:
请问你是林先生吗？ [py py=”Qǐngwèn nǐ shì lín xiānshēng ma?] Excuse me, are you Mr. Lin?
对 / 没错，我是。 Duì/ Méi cuò, wǒ shì. Yes, I am.
See how 没错 or 对 both fit in perfectly instead of 是的?
In what other cases can we use 对 and 没错?
Onto another very frequent use of 对 and 没错.
You’ll find yourself using 对 and 没错 a lot in conversations that contain an exchange of personal opinion (they happen). In fact, as long as you agree with the other’s opinion, you can use 没错 and 对 all you want to show your approval. And since 对 and 没错 mean pretty much the same thing, the one you choose to use really just depends on your personal preferences.
Zhè jiàn yīfú zhēn hǎokàn.
This dress is nice.
对/ 没错, 我也觉得。
Duì/ Méi cuò, wǒ yě juédé.
Yes, I think so too. 对 and 没错 are used to support someone’s opinion, or to show others that you agree with them.
It might help you become popular if you try to use more often 对 and 没错 (but of course for opinions that you really approve, we are not suggesting you be a hypocrite ^^), because people love to feel supported or approved.
When someone invites you out and you want to say yes: 行/好/可以
行: xíng; Ok 好: hǎo; great / good ”[zh kěyǐ; it’s ok. 行/好/可以 are all three very easy to use. All these word means Ok in Chinese and they have similar uses to “Ok, fine, good” in English.
They are mostly used when someone asks for a favor and you don’t mind helping, i.e in situations that contain a request.
As in the following examples:
Nǐ xūyào wǒ bāng nǐ dài zǎocān ma?
Do you need me to bring you breakfast?
Hǎo a, nǐ bù jièyì dehuà.
Sure, if you don’t mind.
Nǐ néng bāng wǒ gēn lǎobǎn qǐngjià ma?
Can you ask the boss for a leave for me?
Xíng, méi wèntí.
Ok, no problem.
They can also be used when someone makes an offer you can’t resist. As here:
Nǐ jīn wǎn xiǎng qù kàn diànyǐng ma?
Do you want to go to the movies tonight?
Kěyǐ a, nǐ xiǎng kàn shénme diànyǐng?
Sounds great, what film do you want to see?
Just make sure you don’t use 好/行/可以 instead of 是/对/没错 because they don’t mean the same thing and can’t be used to replace each other in Chinese.
How come, you ask? Well, if someone comes and asks you if you are Mr. Ling, you’re not going to answer with “cool”, or “fine”, are you? That’s going to sound weird and you will sound silly. Easy.
Use 行/好/可以 to accept your friend’s request or an invitation.
That way, you’ll sound friendly and adorable. Chinese people are usually happy to help others, so if you can show your gentle and helpful side to your Chinese friends, you’ll have a good reputation among them.
What should we say in other situations?
You might find that sometimes, in some conversations, the words that you’ve just learned won’t fit. That’s normal because you‘ll need to give an answer that corresponds to the question you’re being asked so that the conversation can go on smoothly.
But before you get all mad and turn the table over (think of your computer and of your cat sitting on your keyboard), here’s a smart way to say “yes” in all situations, that should come in handy.
Have you noticed that in every Chinese sentence, there is always a main word that holds the important information?
If you haven’t, let’s start with a few examples. The key word is in blue.
Nǐ xǐhuān zhè shuāng xiézi ma?
Do you like these shoes?
Yes, I like them.
Nǐ juédé zhè tiáo kùzi jǐn ma?
Do you think these trousers are tight?
Yes, they’re tight.
Nàgè nánshēng shuài ma?
Is that guy handsome?
Yes, he is.
Did you see how people in these examples responded in a simple but really smart way? All you need to do is to repeat the key word in the question. Cool huh? Short and sweet.
There can be different types of keywords in a sentence: a verb, a noun or an adjective, but once you’ve figured out what the keyword is, pounce on it and reuse it to answer the question. Before long, you’ll realize that you‘re able to have nice fluid conversations in Chinese.
After reading this article, you might be thinking “Dang, so many ways in Chinese to say yes! My 是 wasn’t that bad, after all”. And yes, they might seem like a lot but once you get used to them, they’ll become real simple vocabulary for you. Just watch Chinese TV shows and see how they say yes. Or go talk to native Chinese speakers to practice these new words in real life.
Don’t be shy, yell “yes” to everyone (or not, do listen to the question before yelling “yes”) and you’ll soon find that you’re comfortable with the many way yes in Chinese. 好吗？
Just say “Yes”!
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Jonh Michigan - August 22, 2014
Hi, I really appreciate your article as I was wondering why the Chinese don’t have a simple word for yes. So it’s pretty interesting to see the way the Chinese understand certain degree of yes.
I do have one question BTW, can we use 不错 to say yes?
Ninchanese - August 25, 2014
Thanks for your comment and good question! 不错 actually means “not bad”, and is usually used as a compliment, as in “how was the restaurant?” “不错” (not bad!). That being said, 不错 is also sometimes used instead of 没错 by older people, especially in the North of China.
gruntle - August 26, 2014
Are any of these regional? I’ve never heard 没错 before and I’ve seen these web pages before where they’ll teach you whatever is spoken locally, while not bothering to inform the learner of this important fact.
Ninchanese - August 27, 2014
没错 isn’t particularly regional, that we know of, and can be heard throughout China! Using 没错 makes you sound more positive and active than 是的. And don’t worry, we know how important it is to distinguish local and national lingo so we’d have mentioned it if it was mostly used regionally, as is the case with 不错 (see other comment), for instance! ^^
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Nivek Gallacci - February 10, 2020
So, I watch a lot of old martial arts films and I have noticed a word that sounds like ‘sure’ and it’s usually said as an answer for a demand or favor and is mostly translated as yes or okay. What is this word?
Vox Pbx - February 23, 2020
There’s also ?? shi de, which is a very polite agreement that also expresses complaisance to the person you’re talking to. It’s more polite than ?, and more colloquial. The question will still contain ?.
kizomi - April 15, 2020
so you would normally say shi de?
Lisa - May 8, 2020
What about when someone calls you and in English you would answer “yes?” or “what?”, is there a word for this in Chinese?
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