January 21, 2021
If you’ve just started learning Chinese, you’re probably eager to get the basics down. Learning to say “yes” is usually one of the first things you learn when studying a new language. Unfortunately, you might be surprised to learn that in Chinese, there’s no direct equivalent to the English “yes.” Fear not, however! We’re here to walk you through some of the most common ways to say “yes” in Chinese.
No Direct Translation
Mandarin has no direct translation for the English word “yes,” so saying “yes” in Chinese can get a bit complicated. The only way to express the affirmative in Chinese is to consider the context in which you want to use it.
If that sounds scary, don’t worry. It’s actually much more similar to English than you might think. While “yes” is generally the go-to affirmative answer for English speakers, we also have a lot of other affirmative words and phrases that we use in various different situations. For example, “sure,” “OK,” “of course,” “yep,” “that’s right,” “correct” and “no problem” can also be used to mean “yes” depending on the context.
Just like in English, the more ways you know to express the affirmative in Chinese, the more like a native speaker you’ll sound. Check out our list of 10 common ways to say “yes” in Chinese below.
10 Common Ways to Say “Yes” in Chinese
1. 是 (shì)
One way to say “yes” in Chinese is 是, or shì in pinyin. It’s usually used to confirm that something is true, in the same way that we might say “yes, I am” or “yes, it is” in response to a corresponding question in English.
Note that when you respond to a question using 是 (shì), the question that was asked will normally also contain 是 (shì), which in certain contexts is the rough equivalent of the English verb “to be.”
Check out these three examples to get a better idea of how this works:
A: 你是美国人吗? Are you American?
Nǐ shì Měiguórén ma?
B: 是。 Yes, I am.
A: 你是不是学生? Are you a student?
Nǐ shìbùshì xuéshēng?
B: 是。 Yes, I am.
A: 这是你的背包吗？ Is this your backpack?
Zhè shì nǐ de bèibāo ma?
B: 是。 Yes, it is.
Note that because answering a question that includes 是 (shì) often involves repeating the verb used in the question, this use of 是 (shì) can also be explained using the pattern discussed in section 10 (yes in other situations) below.
是的 (shìde) is a common variation of 是 (shì) which sounds more formal and polite than 是 (shì) by itself. It is a common way to say “yes” in work environments when a subordinate wants to respond in the affirmative to a manager, boss, or other person in a more senior position.
A: 你这周是不是要出差? Are you going on a business trip this week?
Nǐ zhè zhōu shìbùshì yào chūchāi?
B: 是的. Yes, that’s right.
2. 对 (duì)
对 (duì), which means “right” or “correct,” is another common way to say “yes” in Chinese. It’s very similar to 是 (shì), and in many cases the two can be used interchangeably.
In general, if a question contains 对 (duì), the response is more likely to be 对 (duì), while if the question contains 是 (shì), the response is likely to be 是 (shì).
A: 这是你的手机，对吗？ This is your cell phone, right?
Zhè shì nǐ de shǒujī, duì ma?
B: 对。 Yes, that’s right.
对 (duì) is also often used to express agreement with a statement that someone else has made, as in the following example:
A: 我觉得这朵花很漂亮。 I think this flower is really beautiful.
Wǒ juédé zhè duǒ huā hěn piàoliang.
B: 对。 Yes, I think so too.
3. 没错 (méicuò)
The expression 没错 (méicuò) is another way to say “yes” in Chinese. It’s similar to 对 (duì) in that it’s often used to agree with a statement that someone else has made.
If we break 没错 (méicuò) into its component parts, we can see that 没 (méi) means “no” or “not,” as in 没有 (méiyǒu, not have; be without), while 错 (cuò) means “wrong” or “mistake,” as in 错误 (cuòwù, mistake; error). Thus, 没错 (méicuò) literally means “not wrong.”
没错 (méicuò) is often used when agreeing with someone else’s opinion and is the equivalent of English phrases like “that’s true” or “that’s right.”
A: 四川人很会吃辣。 People from Sichuan really love spicy food.
Sìchuānrén hěn huì chī là.
B: 没错。 Yes, that’s right.
4. 好 (hǎo) and its variations
好 (hǎo) is another way to say “yes” in Chinese. The most basic meaning of 好 (hǎo) is “good.” You probably recognize this character from 你好 (nǐhǎo, hello), which is usually one of the first words that beginning Chinese students learn.
In Chinese, 好 (hǎo) can be used as the rough equivalent of “good,” “fine” or “OK” in English.
A: 我们现在去散步。 We’re going for a walk now.
Wǒmen xiànzài qù sànbù.
B: 好。 OK, sounds good.
In addition to using 好 (hǎo) by itself, it’s also possible to change the meaning of your response slightly by adding various particles to the end.
For instance, adding the particle 的 (de) creates 好的 (hǎo de), which can be translated as “OK” or “will do.” It’s often (although not exclusively) used by people in the service industry when agreeing with a customer’s request.
A: 师傅，你八点来接我，好吗？ Driver, could you pick me up at 8 o’clock?
Shīfù, nǐ bā diǎn lái jiē wǒ, hǎo ma?
B: 好的。 Sure, will do.
Likewise, if you add the particle 呀 (ya) to 好 (hǎo), you get 好呀 (hǎo ya), which makes you sound excited about whatever fun plan or activity the person you’re talking to has proposed.
A: 我们明天一起去看电影吧。 Let’s go see a movie tomorrow.
Wǒmen míngtiān yīqǐ qù kàn diànyǐng ba.
B: 好呀！ OK!
In contrast to 好呀 (hǎo ya), answering someone using 好 (hǎo) plus the particle 吧 (ba), or 好吧 (hǎo ba), makes you sound as if you’re less than pleased about whatever it is that the person you’re talking to is proposing.
好吧 (hǎo ba) is still a way to agree with someone’s suggestion, but it’s a reluctant form of agreement that indicates you’d rather not do whatever it is that’s been proposed.
A: 你早上五点来我家，好吗? Come by my house at 5am, OK?
Nǐ zǎoshang wǔ diǎn lái wǒ jiā, hǎo ma?
B: 好吧。 OK.
Last but not least, if you add the particle 了 (le), you get 好了 (hǎo le). This phrase can be used to respond affirmatively to certain questions. When used in this way, it has positive connotations and is similar to “yep” in English.
A: 你准备好了吗？ Are you ready?
Nǐ zhǔnbèi hǎo le ma?
B: 好了! Yep, I’m ready!
In certain contexts, the phrase 好了 (hǎo le) can also have negative connotations, however. This is usually the case when it’s being used to respond to someone who is pushing you to do something or finish something more quickly or efficiently. In this case, it’s similar to “OK, OK” in English and using it makes you sound a bit exasperated.
A: 你还没准备好吗？ You’re still not ready?
Nǐ hái méi zhǔnbèi hǎo ma?
B: 好了，好了，我已经好了。 OK, OK, I’m ready now.
Hǎo le, hǎo le, wǒ yǐjīng hǎo le.
5. 可以 (kěyǐ)
The phrase 可以 (kěyǐ) is another way to express the affirmative in Chinese. It’s often used when asking for or giving permission to do something. In this context, its meaning is similar to “can” or “may.” As a response, it can be roughly translated as “sure,” “OK,” or “yes, you can.”
Note that if the question contains 可以 (kěyǐ), it’s likely that the response will as well.
A: 我可以借你的笔吗? Can I borrow your pen?
Wǒ kěyǐ jiè nǐ de bǐ ma?
B: 可以。 Sure you can.
A: 这里可以拍照吗？ Can I take pictures here?
Zhèlǐ kěyǐ pāizhào ma?
B: 可以。 Yes, you can.
6. 行 (xíng)
行 (xíng) means “OK” or “all right.” It’s usually used to respond affirmatively when someone makes a request or asks for permission. In many situations, its use is similar to 可以 (kěyǐ).
A: 帮我买一瓶水。 Buy me a bottle of water, (please).
Bāng wǒ mǎi yī píng shuǐ.
B: 行！ OK!
7. 嗯 (èn)
嗯 (èn) is an informal affirmative response similar to “yeah” or “uh-huh” in English. It’s often used to express assent in informal communication among friends both offline and on Chinese social media. Like “uh-huh” in English, it sounds somewhat noncommittal.
A: 你有空吗？ Are you free?
Nǐ yǒu kòng ma?
B: 嗯 Uh-huh.
Another common variation of 嗯 (èn) that you might see is 嗯嗯 (èn èn). Its meaning is more or less the same as 嗯 (èn), but with a bit more emphasis.
8. 没问题 (méiwèntí)
没问题 (méiwèntí) is a common Chinese phrase that’s the equivalent of “no problem” or “sure” in English.
A: 你能帮我一下吗？ Can you help me out?
Nǐ néng bāng wǒ yīxià ma?
B: 没问题。 Sure, no problem.
9. 当然 (dāngrán)
当然 (dāngrán) is a strongly affirmative expression similar to “of course” or “certainly” in English. Answering in this way makes you sound especially confident.
A: 你会游泳吗？ Do you know how to swim?
Nǐ huì yóuyǒng ma?
B: 当然。 Yes, of course.
10. “Yes” in other situations
One of the most common ways to say “yes” in Chinese is not a specific word at all. Rather, it’s a Chinese grammatical structure that involves expressing agreement by repeating the main verb or adjective in the question asked.
Because responding requires the ability to recognize keywords in a question, this method works best for learners who already have some basic Chinese vocabulary under their belts.
This repetition-based method is most commonly used with verbs. Thus, even if you’re a beginner without a large Chinese vocabulary, you’ll still be able to use this method so long as you’ve mastered commonly used Chinese verbs like 要 (yào, to want), 有 (yǒu, to have) and 会 (huì, to be able to).
The following three examples show these common Chinese verbs in action:
A: 你要吃火锅吗？ Do you want to eat hotpot?
Nǐ yào chī huǒguō ma?
B: 要！ Yes!
A: 这里有人吗？ Is there someone sitting here?
Zhè li yǒu rén ma?
B: 有。 Yes.
A: 你会开车吗? Can you drive?
Nǐ huì kāichē ma?
B: 会。 Yes.
This grammar-based method for saying “yes” also works with adjectives. In the following example, the adjective 好看 (hǎokàn, good-looking) appears in the question and is then repeated in the answer resulting in an affirmative response:
A: 你觉得好看吗？ Do you think this looks good?
Nǐ juédé hǎokàn ma?
B: 好看。 Yes.
Just say “yes!”
Saying “yes” is one of the most important skills that beginning students of the Chinese language should learn. We hope that the above explanations and examples will help you in your quest to respond to questions like a native.
Getting a feel for which form of “yes” to use in any given situation takes time and practice. If you still feel confused about when to use which word or phrase, we recommend that you try watching some Chinese TV shows. Listening carefully to the dialogue between the characters is a great way to gain insight into which forms of “yes” feel most natural in various different contexts.
Now that you know some of the most common ways to say “yes” in Chinese, don’t forget to practice and solidify your new knowledge by communicating with native Chinese speakers, either online or in person.
Remember, 熟能生巧 (shúnéngshēngqiǎo, practice makes perfect)!
Now that you know how to say “yes,” why not continue exploring the essentials of everyday communication in Chinese by checking out our article on how to say “no” in Chinese or exploring the wonderful world of Chinese measure words?
Essential Vocabulary for Saying Yes in Chinese
|是||shì||to be (verb); yes (in certain contexts)|
|是的||shìde||yes, that's right/correct|
|对||duì||yes, that's right/correct|
|没错||méicuò||yes, that's right/correct/true|
|好的||hǎo de||OK; will do|
|好呀||hǎo ya||OK! (sounds excited/enthusiastic)|
|好吧||hǎo ba||OK (sounds reluctant)|
|好了||hǎole||yep! (positive); OK, OK (sounds exasperated）|
|可以||kěyǐ||yes, you can|
|行||xíng||OK; all right|
|当然||dāngrán||of course; certainly|
|要||yào||to want (verb); yes (in certain contexts)|
|有||yǒu||to have (verb); yes (in certain contexts)|
|会||huì||to be able to (verb); yes (in certain contexts)|