Life is too short to not celebrate each other and each other’s proud accomplishments—big and small!
There are infinite events and moments in life worth celebrating.
From an engagement to landing a new job, acing your driver’s test to becoming a homeowner—everyone has their own victories that we should recognize and compliment.
Plus, it would be kind of rude not to say congratulations when a friend or an acquaintance shares their good news with you. It is pretty much a given to respond like that to someone’s achievements—hence, why you will need to learn how to bestow praise and say congratulations in Chinese.
In China, however, it runs deeper than the fear of being perceived as rude. In fact, the act of praising others is just a tiny portion of a larger cultural concept known as 关系 (guān xì), literally meaning “relationship.”
The Cultural Significance of Commending Success in China
You may have already heard the terms 关系 (guān xì) for “relationship” and 面子 (miàn zi) for “face.” In case you have not, let’s briefly go over why these Chinese concepts are vital for social conduct.
Maintaining Good Relationships
关系 (guān xì) is all about your personal, familial, social, business and even political connections. As Forbes puts it, “[Guanxi] implies trust and mutual obligations between parties… Having good, bad or no guanxi impacts one’s influence and ability to get things done.”
Networking is obviously how one would expand and diversify their relationships, and a huge part of making and maintaining good relationships, regardless at what level, is by giving “face” or 面子 (miàn zi).
What It Means to Gain and Lose Face
Gaining and losing face is something that exists across many cultures, but the definition and gravity of the concept vary from country to country.
In China, it is about respect, honor and social standing. Some ways of giving and gaining face include gift-giving, greetings on holidays, wishing others well, providing encouragement and saying sorry when a mistake or an inconvenience has occurred, as well as recognizing people’s achievements.
On the other hand, losing face happens when you humiliate someone or make them lose their dignity in some type of way. You are basically tarnishing their reputation.
Here is an example of someone losing face:
In this conversation, a man feels like he has lost face at his class reunion, as he felt embarrassed when some people revealed his feelings to the girl he likes, who happens to have a boyfriend.
While some may think he is overreacting, like the woman he was conversing with, it goes to show how vital it is for people to save face.
Now, let’s get on with the many ways of congratulating someone in Chinese.
Congratulations in Chinese: How to Shower Praise like a Supportive Native Speaker
From the generic congratulatory phrases to the supportive expressions, the options for exhibiting happiness and pride in achievements are endless.
How to Say Congratulations in Mandarin
In Chinese, there are actually a ton of different ways to say “congratulations.” Here are some of the most common Chinese translations of “to congratulate.”
祝贺 (zhùhè) — to congratulate; congratulations
恭喜 (gōngxǐ) — congratulations; greetings
You can also add 你 (nǐ) meaning “you” at the end of each term to say “congratulations (to you).”
祝贺你 (zhùhè nǐ) — Congratulations (to you); I congratulate you
恭喜你 (gōngxǐ nǐ) — Congratulations (to you); I congratulate you
Here are some additional, albeit less common, terms you can also use for non-specific occasions. You may notice that these terms are variations of the same characters used in the earlier verbs.
恭贺 (gōnghè) — to congratulate respectfully; to wish well
恭祝 (gōng zhù) — to congratulate respectfully; to wish (a superior) good luck and success
致贺 (zhì hè) — to congratulate
道喜 (dàoxǐ) — to congratulate
道贺 (dàohè) — to congratulate
贺喜 (hèxǐ) — to congratulate
For terms like 恭贺 (gōnghè) and 恭祝 (gōng zhù), you can tack on 你 (nǐ) at the end to say, “Congratulations (to you),” just as we did with the first two words.
As for the rest, you can say 我向你 (wǒ xiàng nǐ) + congratulatory verb, which would literally translate to “I towards you congratulate,” but it really means “congratulations.” Below are a couple of examples for your reference.
我向你致贺。(wǒ xiàng nǐ zhì hè.) — I congratulate you; Congratulations (to you).
我向你道喜。(wǒ xiàng nǐ dàoxǐ.) — I congratulate you; Congratulations (to you).
Additional Phrases for Commending Success
Although the previous section showed that there is more than one way of saying “congratulations,” the praise is also very general. Whenever you can be more specific, please do so.
For example, if you want to congratulate someone on finishing building or renovating their house, you can say:
燕雀相贺 (yànquè xiāng hè)
It is an idiom that literally means “a sparrow and swallow’s congratulations,” but you can think of it as congratulating someone building their “nest.”
There are lots of other situations that you can praise others for. At weddings, you can share your wishes for the happy couple by saying:
祝你婚姻幸福! (zhù nǐ hūnyīn xìng fú!)
This translates to “Congratulations on your marriage” or “I wish you a happy marriage.”
Know someone who is graduating from school? Wish them “happy graduation” by saying:
恭喜你顺利毕业! (gōngxǐ nǐ shùn lì bìyè!)
If a person comes across a new opportunity, such as a job, some things you might say to praise them include the following:
祝贺你找到新工作! (zhùhè nǐ zhǎo dào xīn gōngzuò!) — Congratulations on the new job!
恭祝促销成功! (gōngzhù cùxiāo chéng gōng!) — Congrats on the promotion!
开张大吉! (kāizhāng dàjí!) — Auspicious beginning of a new enterprise (literally); Congrats on the new business!
Expressions for Support and Other Words of Encouragement
“Congratulations” is the natural response when you want to express your happiness for someone’s accomplishments, but you can also show your support with other phrases.
For one, you can let the person know that you are happy for them by saying 我都替你高兴 (wǒ dōu tì nǐ gāoxìng).
Here are some other expressions you can use:
你真棒啊! (nǐ zhēn bàng a!) — You are (so) awesome!
太好了! (tài hǎole!) — That is great; Great news!
非常好! (fēicháng hǎo!) — Well done!
And if you are looking for more ways to share your support, these are some of the things you can say:
我一直相信你。 (wǒ yīzhí xiāngxìn nǐ.) — I have always believed in you.
我为你骄傲。 (wǒ wèi nǐ jiāo’ào.) — I am proud of you.
我早就知道你能行的。 (wǒ zǎo jiù zhīdào nǐ néng xíng de.) — I knew (early on) that you could do it.
Non-verbal Ways to Say Congratulations
For some occasions, especially when it is a celebration with a gathering, it is customary to give a gift. Certain events may call for certain gifts, but the money-stuffed red envelope or 红包 (hóng bāo) is a safe bet.
How much you put in there depends on the age of the recipient and the milestone. Obviously, an engaged couple would receive a heftier amount than a kid graduating from elementary school.
According to modern Chinese wedding customs, you can also present fruits and nuts as a gift for the couple, such as dates, longan, chestnuts and peanuts.
To celebrate a new business or office space, some people give paintings or figurines of lucky animals as a wish for prosperity and wealth. Decorative pieces like those can also be housewarming gifts to bring health and safety into the home.
Of course, you do not need to wait for a big party to gift your loved ones. You are more than welcome to present your loved ones with gifts when they accomplish something major or minor.
As you progress in your language studies, you will learn that this is just a snippet of all the ways to say congratulations in Chinese. However, know that these expressions are sufficient enough to help native speakers, as well as yourself, maintain good face!