Wow! 22 Bold Chinese Interjections You Need to Learn Today
“Really?!” “Wow!” “Who would’ve thought!”
Finding a quick, appropriate response during a conversation can be challenging when developing your Chinese speaking skills.
Interjections and rejoinders add a more natural feel to your Chinese. These are common phrases I acquired mostly by hearing Chinese friends use them repeatedly, and eventually became part of my own spoken Chinese.
They also demonstrate reflective listening—that is, they show you’ve heard the other person and acknowledged what they’re feeling.
So in this article, you’ll learn 22 Chinese interjections that pack a short but powerful punch!
- Chinese Interjections for Expressing Sympathy
- Chinese Interjections for Expressing Amazement
- Chinese Interjections for Expressing Thanks
- Chinese Interjections for Politely Responding to Praise
- Chinese Interjections for Expressing Disgust or Surprise
- Chinese Interjections for Keeping the Conversation Going
- How to Learn Chinese Interjections
- And One More Thing...
Chinese Interjections for Expressing Sympathy
1. 那当然了！ (nà dāng rán le!)
English: Of course!
You totally agree, and the setting is probably rather lighthearted.
Situations might include things like:
- A friend remarks that it’s raining again (during the rainy season)
- You’re asked if you’d like to join some coworkers to your favorite restaurant for lunch
- Someone brings up how expensive a new BMW is
那当然了! could be a good response to all of those situations.
2. 太可惜了！ (tài kě xī le!)
English: That’s too bad!
Chinese people who know English often use “what a pity!” when expressing this sentiment. You show empathy for disappointment.
- A friend has to cancel social plans to work late
- You find a shirt you like at a shop, but your favorite color is out of stock
- Your reservation at a restaurant got mixed up, and you’ll have to wait 15 minutes for a table
3. 好好休息！ (hǎo hǎo xiū xi!)
English: Rest up!
This might be said to someone who just said they’d gotten sick, or who has just finished a huge task—like exam week.
- A fellow student seems to have developed a cough
- A coworker talks about all the extra hours put in for a sales presentation they just completed
- Someone is about to get a week’s break from school
4. 保重自己 (bǎo zhòng zì jǐ)
English: Take care of yourself
Someone just shared sad personal news, extra demands at work/school or similar difficult circumstances. And you share empathy with them by encouraging the person not to forget to take care of themselves amid those difficulties.
This phrase’s usage is the same as 好好休息! above.
Chinese Interjections for Expressing Amazement
5. 不错！ (bù cuò!)
English: Not bad!
Though warm, this is an understated phrase and sometimes seems used for praise that comes somewhat unexpected.
Situations might include:
- Someone did a bike trick pretty well
- Your friend shows you their non-expert—but decent—sample of calligraphy
- You’re eating Western food at a restaurant in China
6. 厉害！ (lì hài!)
I may be revealing my age by using “awesome” as an English equivalent of this interjection.
In more modern American slang, “sick!” is used similarly. This is used to praise another person for something they’ve done.
- Someone is a great dancer
- A friend gave you a really complex origami they folded for you
- A driver maneuvered through chaotic traffic skillfully, preventing you from getting stuck in a traffic jam
7. 哇！ (wā) / 哇噻！ (wā sāi)
The news was good, and you’re celebrating!
哇噻! seems more common in the northeast of China. I heard 哇! more when I lived in Southwest China.
- Your friend got a great price for that cute, new purse she has
- What a great score your friend earned on a test
- You just learned what a great singer your friend is during karaoke
Chinese Interjections for Expressing Thanks
8. 谢谢！ (xiè xie!)
Simple, and easy. Feel more thankful?
- 谢谢, 谢谢！
- 谢谢你 (xiè xie nǐ)
- 太谢谢你！ (tài xiè xie nǐ) with emphasis on 太
Note that saying thanks directly comes off as too formal or distant among friends and family. But with people you don’t know well, certainly use it.
9. 你辛苦了！ (nǐ xīn kǔ le!) / 你太辛苦了！ (nǐ tài xīn kǔ le!)
English: You’ve done so much!
Here’s a classic way to thank someone who has helped you by doing something for you.
It might be well-suited for situations like:
- Thanking someone for preparing a wonderful meal
- Thanking your child’s teacher
- Thanking someone who hosted you and cared for your needs during a visit
10. 你想得这么周到！ (nǐ xiǎng de zhè me zhōu dào!)
English: This is so thoughtful of you!
Someone has shown great attention to your needs or preferences.
Perhaps he or she sent you flowers, made you your favorite meal when you visited or took care to prepare every detail of travel arrangements for you.
Chinese Interjections for Politely Responding to Praise
11. 哪里哪里 (nă lĭ nă lĭ)
English: Not at all.
This phrase works as a humble response to a compliment.
It means “Where? Where?”, suggesting that you can’t see anything worthy of someone’s thanks or praise.
However, it seems less common with younger Chinese people, and even with older generations, it can come off as too insincere if overused.
- A stranger says your Chinese is very good
- Someone praises a task you’ve done for them
- Someone compliments your skill or style
12. 不敢当！ (bù găn dāng!)
English: I’m hardly all that!
You’ve received some praise, and defer it by saying you “don’t dare to be” as excellent as their praise suggests. This feels somewhat more formal than 哪里，哪里.
Situations for this phrase may include:
- When someone introduces you as a non-native Chinese speaker with incredible Mandarin
- Someone says you’re the best mom or dad they know
- A coworker suggests that you’re certain to be promoted since you’re talented and hard-working
13. 彼此彼此！ (bĭ cĭ bĭ cĭ!)
English: Right back at you!
Someone has complimented you, and you politely receive the compliment by saying that they, too, are worthy of the same praise.
However, it’s more formal than the American phrase “back at you!”
Don’t say this to someone who’s your boss or other authority figure. Use the above mentioned 不敢当! instead.
- A peer coworker compliments your excellent work
- A friend you often visit for dinner compliments your cooking skills
- Someone tells you how nice you look today
14. 我还在努力！ (wǒ hái zài nǔ lì!)
English: I’ve got a long way to go!
More literally, this means “I’m still working hard.”
Someone has complimented your (fairly functional) Chinese or other skill, and you reply by suggesting you’re still working at that skill.
This is my own preferred way to defer any compliments about my Chinese, because it feels so real to me. There truly is always more to learn and improvements to be made.
Any skill from performing music to language ability to playing a sport could be in view with this response.
Chinese Interjections for Expressing Disgust or Surprise
15. 哎呀！ (āi yā!)
English: Oh no!
This multifaceted interjection expresses disbelief, disgust and/or irritation.
- You just stepped in something
- You dropped your coffee cup
- You stubbed your toe
- You had a bad hair day you can’t fix
16. 真讨厌！ (zhēn tǎo yàn!)
This Chinese interjection is for expressing disgust for what you heard, described or just saw.
- A nasty bug just crawled across the floor
- Your trashcan is really smelly
- Someone’s behavior is inappropriate and rude
17. 真没想到！ (zhēn méi xiǎng dào!)
English: Who would’ve thought!
This response shows you’re listening to someone telling you somewhat surprising news, whether good or bad.
- You arrive at a popular restaurant only to find it’s closed
- Every weather report predicted snow, but instead the weather is sunny and warm
- The parking garage at the mall is full on a weekday early afternoon
18. 原来是这样！ (yuán lái shì zhè yàng!) / 原来如此！ (yuán lái rú cǐ)
English: So it turned out it’s that way!
Something turned out differently than previous expectations or experience suggested.
- Your friend corrects your confusion about the meaning of a Chinese word
- Your landlord points to a clause in the lease that shows why you’re expected to pay six months of rent at a time
- Someone explains to you about different Chinese regional cooking styles
Chinese Interjections for Keeping the Conversation Going
These are perfect for keeping the ball rolling, even if you need to fake it a bit.
19. 真的吗？ (zhēn de ma?)
What you heard impressed you in some way, and you want to hear more about it.
Appropriate situations include:
- A friend tells you he signed up for an online dating service
- While shopping, your friend suggests you try on a blouse you aren’t sure about
- A friend announces that she’s just gotten engaged
20. 就是 (jiù shì)
English: That’s just it.
You really agree with the person you’re talking with.
- You’re discussing what that flavor must be in the noodle dish you’re sharing, and your friend suggests it’s Sichuan peppercorn
- After exercising, your workout buddy suggests that you must be thirsty
- Someone asks if your apartment really is on the top floor of the building
21. 嗯 (èn) / 哦 (ò)
English: Ahh… / uh huh
The meanings of these interjections depend on your intonation.
A firm downward tone shows affirmation. A rising tone shows questioning or surprise.
Using these interjections shows that you’re listening attentively without interrupting the other person speaking.
Switching your version of “um” or “uh huh” to more Chinese-sounding interjections helps reduce some of the sense of social distance caused by different languages. Just don’t overuse them!
22. 你是说…… (nǐ shì shuō…) / 那是说…… (nà shì shuō…)
English: So you mean to say…
These phrases indicate that you’re going to rephrase what the other speaker said, but in your own words. Basically, to sum up and check that you understood.
This phrase can also allow you to collect your thoughts (as in this Thai example).
After hearing someone describe their opinion of a situation, you might use this phrase to introduce your rephrasing of their main points.
How to Learn Chinese Interjections
- Listen to Chinese interjections in natural situations. To use these phrases naturally, you need to reflect the tone of voice used by native speakers. Authentic videos (made by and for native Chinese speakers) can provide helpful examples of when and how natives actually use interjections. For example, FluentU is based on native Chinese videos for this reason.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
- Pick out your favorite responses. Make a short list of responses you think you’ll use often, then post them somewhere you’ll see a lot. A list on your phone? Maybe a note by the bathroom mirror, or on the refrigerator door? Starting with only two or three and slowly adding more would be better than memorizing a long list all at once.
- Use charts. If you find lists work for you, you can even make a chart to show your progress with phrases you’ve just begun to work with, those you know fairly well and those you’ve really mastered.
- Learn with the pinyin first. Later, as the phrases are familiar by sound, you could replace the pinyin with characters and develop your reading ability, too.
- Color code the interjections for tones. Adding colors to your pinyin may help you recall tones better. There’s more than one way to color-code tones; try and see which you prefer. Sites like Purple Culture and TerryWaltz.com will allow you to type and get pinyin with a color automatically added to each tone. Copy and paste the results into a document you can print or view on a device.
These short Chinese interjections will enhance your conversational skills, make you sound more natural and impress native speakers.
Keep these phrases handy the next time you’re conversing and give them a try!
And One More Thing...
If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.
FluentU naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you'll learn Chinese as it's spoken in real life.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos.
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
FluentU's Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)