#34 Learning Tip: Thanking in Cantonese, do1 ze6 vs. m4 goi1 (English/粵語)
- 積極 zik1 gik6 (ADJ) active
- 感謝 gam2 ze6 (N/V) thanks; to thank
- 夾埋 gaap3 maai4 (V) to combine, to put together
- 利益 lei6 jik1 (N) benefit
- 恩惠 jan1 wai6 (N) favor, grace
- 讚美 zaan3 mei5 (N/V) praise; to praise
- 對應 deoi3 jing3 (V) to match
- 道謝 dou6 ze6 (VO) to express gratitude
- 謝意 ze6 ji3 (N) gratitude
- 職業病 zik1 jip6 beng6 (N) occupational disease
- 具體 geoi3 tai2 (ADJ) specific
- 經典 ging1 din2 (ADJ/N) classic; classics
- 歸納 gwai1 naap6 (N/V) induction; to conclude
- 原則 jyun4 zak1 (N) principle
- 判斷 pun3 dyun6 (V/N) to judge; judgement
- 顧客 gu3 haak3 (N) customer
- 侍應 si6 jing3 (N) waiter
- 收銀 sau1 ngan2 (N) cashier
- 純粹 seon4 seoi6 (ADV) just, merely, purely
- 反應 faan2 jing3 (N) response
- 提供 tai4 gung1 (V) to provide
- 關鍵字 gwaan1 gin6 zi6 (N) keyword
- 預期 jyu6 kei4 (V) to expect
- 處理 cyu3 lei5 (V) to handle, to manage
- 物質 mat6 zat1 (N) material, substance
- 主動 zyu2 dung6 (ADV) taking initiative, proactively
- 意料之外 ji3 liu6 zi1 ngoi6 (EXP) beyond expectation
- 嬲 nau1 (V/ADJ) to be mad/upset; angry
- 身份 san1 fan2 (N) identity
- 長輩 zoeng2 bui3 (N) elder, senior
- 崇拜 sung4 baai3 (V/N) to worship; worship
- 偶像 ngau5 zoeng6 (N) idol
- 程度 cing4 dou6 (N) degree, extent
- 區別 keoi1 bit6 (N) difference, distinction
- 承接 sing4 zip3 (V) to connect, to continue
- 標記 biu1 gei3 (N) marker
- 狀態 zong6 taai3 (N) state, status
- 強化 koeng4 faa3 (V) to intensify, to strengthen
- 承認 sing4 jing6 (V) to acknowledge, to admit
- 實質 sat6 zat1 (ADJ) physical, substantial
- 理論 lei5 leon6 (N) theory
- 髮型 faat3 jing4 (N) hairstyle
- 反話 faan2 waa2 (N) sarcasm (lit. opposite speech)
- 過獎 gwo3 zoeng2 (V) to flatter (lit. over praise)
- 表揚 biu2 joeng4 (V) to comment, to compliment
- 新潮 san1 ciu4 (ADJ) trendy (lit. new wave)
- 禮貌 lai5 maau6 (N) courtesy, manner
- 謙虛 him1 heoi1 (ADJ) humble
- 因素 jan1 sou3 (N) factor
- 情景 cing4 ging2 (N) scenario, situation
- 提示 tai4 si6 (N) reminder, tip
- 寧願 ning4 jyun2/6 (AUX) would rather
- 隨便 ceoi4 bin2 (ADJ/ADV) casual; casually
ADJ - Adjective
ADV - Adverb
AUX - Auxiliary verb
EXP - Expression
N - Noun
V - Verb
VO - Verb object
Cameron: Today’s episode is actually based on a question that we received from a lot of listeners, which is “what’s the difference between the major ways of thanking people in Cantonese?” And I think the main expressions that people are thinking about when they ask this are “m4 goi1” and “do1 ze6”. So Raymond, could you help us unpack that a little?
(Well, it’s as you just said, many people often ask this question, and that includes my students. This is probably one of the questions that they ask the most frequently. Today we just had the first class, and we already discussed it. Whenever the question comes up, many students discuss it very actively, and they’ll give different examples in order to understand it. So first off, we most often discuss do1 ze6 and m4 goi1 in Cantonese, right? Let’s look at the usage of do1 ze6 and m4 goi1 first based on their characters.)
(For do1 ze6, “do1” means “a lot,” as in “do1 siu2”. “ze6” means “thank you.” So combined together, “do1 ze6” means, “Thank you very much.” Basically, when you receive some benefit or favor, or some present, or people praise you, then you would often say “do1 ze6.” As for “m4 goi1,” it’s another corresponding saying. What do you think m4 goi1 means based on its characters?)
Cameron: So if you're looking at the “該 (goi1, in Cantonese)”, the “該 (gai1, in Mandarin)” for Mandarin speakers, it… to me it looks like “no need” or “you shouldn't have to”.
(Yes, you put it well, it’s the m4 means “not,” as in, “You should not.” I think that this saying means that something has happened that shouldn’t happen but has nonetheless happened. It often corresponds with when you bother someone or you ask someone for help, and then you accept their help or receive some sort of service and you say, “San1 fu2 saai3 la1!” [Basically, sorry for the trouble] Although it shouldn’t have, it still happened, I’ve still bothered you. You still thank them.)
噉所以兩個都係一個表達謝意9、感謝嘅講法。噉但係呢，其實佢背後呢，嗰個表達嗰個思想其實有啲唔一樣嘅。噉但係呢，我即係有個職業病10呀，即係通常啲學生問我一個問題，我又鍾意問返個學生問題，即係聽吓佢點樣理解先，然之後我睇吓可唔可以補充啦。噉我又想問返 Cameron 你喇，噉大家既然都成日問“唔該”同“多謝”有咩唔同，噉你嘅理解，佢哋有咩唔同呀？
(Both are expressions of gratitude or ways of saying thank you. However, behind that, the thoughts that they express are not the same. Nonetheless, I have an occupational disease in that often when students ask me questions, I like to answer them with a question so that I can hear their understanding and then see if I can supplement it in some way. So I’ll ask you Cameron, with everyone always saying that m4 goi1 and do1 ze6 aren’t the same, according to your understanding, how are they different?)
Cameron: So I always think of gifts as being a really classic example. If it’s something physical that you get, “do1 ze6” is something that goes with that, and that's very easy to remember. I think it's really hard though… it's not something that I feel like I can easily translate to words. It’s something that I feel is more situational, so I actually thought of a few hypothetical situations that I want to put you in, and I wonder what you would say in response. I think that actually might be one of the most helpful ways to help listeners get a grasp, or an idiomatic feel, for when to say “do1 ze6” and when to say “m4 goi1”.
(Yes, I think if you’ve found some specific examples, some classic examples, or some special situations, it can help you remember–that’s a good method. And after we’ve looked at these examples, I think we can try to sum it up and find some final principle that can make it easier to judge when to say do1 ze6 and when to say m4 goi1.)
Cameron: Perfect, alright, so there's an example first and then try and draw some sort of general principles afterwards. Alright, so the first set of examples are, I think something that’s very accessible, very, sort of useful for almost all of our listeners because it has to go with when we go to eat. I think this is the time when a lot of people use Cantonese. It’s when you go for dim sum with your family, or perhaps you're just grabbing a quick bite, but it's a place where you might use Cantonese whether you’re in Hong Kong, Vancouver, or anywhere else where you sort of want to interact with Cantonese is the main language. So first you show up, and the waiter shows you to your table, what do you say?
(Here I would say m4 goi1. I’m a customer here, right? When speaking to service staff or a waiter, I would say, “Oh, m4 goi1” when they take me to my seat.)
Cameron: Okay, perfect. So they've shown you to your table, you're the customer, you say “m4 goi1”. Alright, now you've ordered your food, it’s been prepared, and they give it to you. And they sort of set it all out on the table, what do you say when they're sort of putting stuff down on the table?
(And the other party I am speaking to is still service staff or a waiter, right? Well, I think I would still continue to say m4 goi1. They brought out the food and put it in front of me, so I would say m4 goi1 saai3 or m4 goi1. )
Cameron: Okay, so you've got your food, and I think this is important to sort of, to point out because again, this is an example where it’s a physical thing but you still say “m4 goi1”. It's not a gift, it's also, it's a, it's a food. Alright, you finish eating your food, you went to the counter, and you're paying, and they… you sort of you give your money, and they give you your change back. What do you say there?
(Uh, so they are giving me change, right? Then I take the money and I would still say m4 goi1. And then that waiter or cashier, they’re still doing me a service, so I would say m4 goi1.)
Cameron: Okay, so you are still saying “m4 goi1”. Now, it’s like the same situation, but reverse it a little bit, let's say your friend paid for the meal. What do you say to the friend?
(Uh, if my friend treats me to a meal, then I will, I’ll of course say, “Do ze6.” I won’t say “M4 goi1” to them. I’ll say, “Do1 ze6.”
Cameron: Perfect, so this is someone treating you. You’re actually going to say “do1 ze6”. Let's pause for a minute. What general principle might you talk about to differentiate between all those first three situations you said “m4 goi1”, but then with the last one, you switched and said “do1 ze6”.
Raymond: 嗯，係喇，你呢個問題問得好喇。即係呢，我哋就噉我哋純粹19去判斷嗰個人呀，定係事呀，然之後決定“唔該”同“多謝”呢，對於我哋講母語者嚟講呢，相對會比較即係好直接嘅反應20，我哋就會比較容易啲去判斷嘅。但係呢我想問返，我又係倒返轉又問返你喎，即係你覺得係有… 喺呢個情況裏面呢，即係我點解會喺前面三個講“唔該”，後面嗰個，當個人、個對象唔同咗嘅時候，我即刻轉咗講“多謝”呀？我又想聽吓你嘅睇法，然之後我再講一個原則啦不如。
(Yes, that’s a great question. As in, when we’re purely going to judge a person or situation and then decide whether to use “m4 goi1” or “do1 ze6,” for those of us for whom Cantonese is their first language, it will be a relatively direct reaction, it’s easier for us to judge [which to use]. But I want to ask in return, ask you, what do you think–based on these situations–why did I say those first three m4 goi1s and then with a different person, a different interlocutor, I immediately answered back with do1 ze6? I’d like to hear what you think, and then I’ll explain a principle.)
Cameron: So I think, the way I think of it, is a waiter in those, the first three instances, they are doing their job, so technically they are sort of going… they are troubling themselves on your behalf as we sort of talked about earlier, but it's also, it’s part of the job description, it’s part of the regular transaction of going to a restaurant. Whereas the last instance where the friend is treating you, that’s not necessarily a scripted expected behavior. That's an extra add-on, you got this bonus, and there's… it’s sort of a, it's not a reciprocal transactional moment. It is a friend doing something nice for you.
(Yes, I think you’ve already explained it really well. With the first three situations, the person you are talking to is a waiter. As we’ve already said, they offered you a sort of service, it’s not a favor. Also, in the explanation you just gave in English, the keyword that I’ll use that will help you decide which term to use is whether the behavior is so-called “expected.” In Cantonese we would call it “kei4 mong6” or “jyu6 kei4.” Because when the waiter provides us with this service, it’s within my expectations that they should, that they should help me in that way. However, I’m polite, so in Cantonese we say, “M4 goi1,” so it should happen, but we say “You shouldn’t have.”)
(Thus, we use m4 goi1 to handle that which we expect to receive, no matter whether it is material or a service. So when waiters are doing their work, even if I don’t actually speak, I will still expect it like this, so I will say m4 goi1. As for that last example with my friend, that’s very… likely perhaps I didn’t say a word, I didn’t think that they’d pay–I didn’t require that they pay–and they took the initiative in treating me to a meal. It really is like a gift, or as we say in Cantonese, “ji3 liu6 zi1 ngoi6” [beyond expectations]. I didn’t expect it, meaning that if they didn’t pay, I would not say that I was unhappy or that I would get mad and fall out with them, right?)
噉呢個係佢做一樣好好嘅、係我預料之外嘅、噉呢個係 unexpected 嘅，噉所以呢，我會講“多謝”。噉所以嗰個關鍵字呢，就係我哋用個比較正式啲嘅講法，就係“expectancy”，即係呢樣嘢係唔係你嘅預期之內可以會決定到我哋應該講“唔該”定係“多謝”囉。
(What they did was very nice and was beyond my expectations, so it was “unexpected, so I would say “do1 ze6.” That keyword, a more formal way of saying it, would be “expectancy.” It means that whether what happened was within your expectations can help you to decide whether to say m4 goi1 or do1 ze6.)
Cameron: Perfect. I think that's a really, a sort of helpful way to put it. This differentiation between what’s expected and what’s unexpected. Alright, so let’s move away then, from the, the eatery for a second, just because, you know, restaurants aren’t the only place that we see Cantonese, and talk about a few other places in our daily life where we might be thanking people. One I think is very common is someone holds the door open for you. What do you say there?
(Ah, this is also very interesting. Well, I use this principle, so this time I might as well, I’ll talk about the principle, and afterwards you’ll also use this principle to decide whether to use m4 goi1 or do1 ze6. If the person opening the door, for example, is doing so at a hotel where they work in service, they’ll open the door for you. First off, isn’t this within your expectations–wouldn’t you expect them to open the door for you?)
Cameron: So would I, do I have an expectation that someone opens the door for me, it depends on the place. So for instance, like if I'm at a fancy restaurant or a fancy hotel, they have a person manning the door, in that instance, that’s expected.
(Yes, so wouldn’t you be more likely to say m4 goi1 if that’s the case?)
Cameron: I’d probably say m4 goi1. It would also just be like a quick play, instant reaction.
(Yes, I think this has to do with different identities. Like if they are clearly a waiter providing a service to you, then I would expect them to open a door. Although this is a very courteous and nice thing to do, but ordinarily I would say m4 goi1, unless the person opening the door is a very special person, someone you really revere or an elder. Or, if you really like that person and you worship them like an idol and they suddenly open the door for you. In those cases, do you think it is OK to say do1 ze6?)
Cameron: Oh I would say do1 ze6.
Yes, as in I hadn’t thought [that they would open the door for me]...
(Yes, “As an elder you shouldn’t help open the door for me,” I never thought you would. In this case I would say do1 ze6 to thank you for helping me.)
Cameron: I feel like… and I feel like it also comes from sort of a holdover of a notion of status hierarchy, where I, almost as a lower status person, don't expect someone of higher status to hold the door for me, so I really… that’s definitely unexpected so I'm going to say something right there.
(Yes this example is quite interesting. We aren’t just looking at the door or the person. We need to look at what person and situation it is.)
Cameron: I actually feel like there are other extenuating circumstances, one that I think of is when let’s say you are carrying a lot of stuff, and a stranger comes out of nowhere, to come and opens the door for me. I feel like that's an instance I actually might say do1 ze6.
(Yes, I think I would also say do1 ze6. You can also imagine your tone. You wouldn’t just coldly say, “M4 goi1, do1 ze6.” It would be totally different. You would say, “Thank you so much! Do1 ze6, do1 ze6! Sorry to trouble you!” Like that. Do1 ze6 also has a degree of differentiation, I think do1 ze6 has a heightened quality to it. Like that thing you said…)
Cameron: And we should probably address those instances where people might hear “m4 goi1 saai3” or “do1 ze6 saai3”. What’s that “saai3” doing in this instance with both of those words?
(It’s really interesting that you ask this. Picking up from previous episodes, you remember those sentence final particles or tone words that we talked about, this saai3 is somewhat related, it has somewhat of a tonal aspect. Also, on top of the tone that saai3 adds, it’s also a marker, a verb marker. That means that it expresses the state of the verb, such as “I’ve eaten it all,” “I’ve seen it all,” “I’ve finished it,” as in completing something. Here, although there is no formal verb, here it expresses “very” or “totally,” as it also differentiates the degree. So comparing m4 goi1 and m4 goi1 saai3, the extent [of thanking] in m4 goi1 saai3 is greater. As for do1 ze6 and do1 ze6 saai3, that saai3 also seems to strengthen the tone.)
Cameron: Alright, so it's intensifying the extent of the gratitude in both instances. And I think we'll probably also do a later episode talking more about “saai3” in the context of adverb because it’s a, such a useful particle. Alright, I think then we do need to talk briefly about… obviously gifts, and just the physical ones. I think we kind of made this obvious earlier, but it's your birthday, and on your birthday, you know you're getting a gift, but what do you say when someone gives you this beautiful new… you got a coffee machine, a new espresso maker, what do you say when someone gives that to you?
(Yes, yes… This… For this, if we go back to the principle from before, you just added a key, the key sentence is that you knew they were going to give you a gift. This was within your expectations. However, however, in this situation, because it is a gift, you want to express that you accept this gift that they gave you, so in fact I wouldn’t… it shouldn’t be outside your expectations, it’s within your expectations. So I should still express my emotion, no matter whether I know about it or not, so usually for a gift I would always say do1 ze6.)
Cameron: Yeah, so I think that's an important thing. Even though we have a cultural expectation on birthdays that you get gifts on that day, we definitely say “do1 ze6” when someone's giving you a gift. Then there are compliments. So let's say I just got a new haircut, and a friend compliments the new haircut, what's a good response?
(Yes, this is an interesting example, because when I teach my class, I often use this example. If someone compliments you, it’s also a sort of gift. Although it isn’t a physical gift, in theory they are giving you a verbal gift that makes you feel good. So theoretically you should say do1 ze6. But I often make a joke, and I have heard many of those studying Cantonese, particularly beginning students, say, “M4 goi1.” For instance, “Wow, your new haircut today is so attractive!” or “You’re so handsome, or so pretty!” Usually we respond with, “Do1 ze6, thank you for the compliment.” However, if you say m4 goi1, what would that make people think? “You’re great!” “M4 goi1.”
(Usually my students will laugh. Why, why do they laugh? That’s what I’m asking.)
Cameron: Um, to me, if someone… if you compliment someone, and then someone says “m4 goi1”, it’s almost like “oh, it’s kind of you.” Like… it’s a flat response. Because also there's a third response, I think that, that is also idiomatic that I think we can talk about at the moment. But if someone just says “m4 goi1”, it sounds like you're not… you're not rising to the reciprocity of what’s being sent to you.
(Yes. Also, according to the explanation from before, in terms of meaning it’s “you shouldn’t have,” so the meaning is that you should help me. And here the meaning is, “You’re saying I’m great? I already know.” That’s m4 goi1 here.)
Cameron: Oh, yeah. You know, you're almost like you are saying you know you're attractive, you know you have a nice haircut.
(It’s become sarcastic, so it’s a sort of joke.)
Cameron: Siu3 waa2, ah, yeah. Now I think, I think there's also you can… there’s some other things to be aware of, you can say “m4 goi1” and “do1 ze6” sarcastically.
Cameron: Contrary to popular belief, there is sarcasm, you know, in Cantonese. For some reasons, I’ve found, I’ve met people who think that's not the case, but you can, you can say something and mean something a little targeted with it. Okay, but then let’s say someone compliments you but it's in front of a lot of people. Let's say your teacher compliments you on your homework in your essay in front of the whole class. And just says some very very nice things, says multiple sentences about how beautiful your essay is. What, what are some of the possible ways in Cantonese you can respond to that level of compliment and in that sort of situation?
(Of course, it can be very direct and simple, like “Hou2 do1 ze6 nei5, thank you for the praise, thank you for the compliment.” However, I think that you are thinking of something else. I can guess that what you are thinking about is, “You’re saying too much.” As in, no need to praise me so much. In Cantonese we say, “Gwo3 zoeng2, you flatter me too much.” As in, there’s no need to compliment me so much. I’ll just simply say, “Gwo3 zoeng2 laa3,” right?)
Cameron: “Gwo3 zoeng2”, yeah, that was the one I was thinking of. But I also know there's a generational shift to that, because I know “gwo3 zoeng2” some people think that is like traditional. Some people were saying “nǎlǐ，nǎlǐ” [lit. where, where] in Mandarin, or that was sort of a classical way to accept a compliment.
Cameron: Whereas it’s very modern and some people will even tell me, like “Western ways” to just say “thank you” straight out. And so I guess they’ll say… um, it’s more equivalent to that. But again, definitely don't say “m4 goi1”.
(Yes, you shouldn’t…)
Cameron: … don’t say “m4 goi1”.
Raymond: 不過呢，另外一個有趣嘅呢就係，順便我又介紹一個比較新啲嘅講法，一個年青人呢，嗱，“過獎”你都話喇，一個比較傳統嘅反應，即係話“我… 你讚得太多喇，我邊度係噉樣呀。”普通話講“哪裡哪裡”啦。噉呀廣東話就唔一定會話“邊度”嘅。而家流行講嘅呢，就係話“誒，講呢啲。”即係呢，你講呢啲…
(However, there is something else that is interesting, I might as well introduce a relatively new way of responding that young people use. Gwo3 zoeng2 is a rather traditional response, saying, “You flatter me too much, how am I so great,” or “nǎlǐ, nǎlǐ” in Mandarin. In Cantonese we wouldn’t necessarily say, “where.” A more popular thing to say is, “Ah, you’re saying this…”
Cameron: “Ni1 di1.”
(Yes, have you heard of it? Gong2 ni1 di1. It’s a rather trendy thing to say. As in, “You’re saying this? It’s not that.” In fact it’s…”
Raymond: … ellipsis 嚟嘅。即係後面其實仲有話“講呢啲，其實唔係㗎。”噉樣。噉而家大家都會話“講呢啲”呀。其實呢個有少少 sarcastic，但係同樣時間其實又係一種禮貌47嚟嘅喎。即係你係禮貌地話“其實我唔係嘅。”謙虛48嘅表現。
(It’s a sort of ellipsis. As in you’re saying, “You’re saying this stuff, but that’s not how it is.” Like that. So now everyone is saying, Gong2 ni1 di1. It’s a little sarcastic, but at the same time it’s also polite. It’s a polite way of saying, “That’s not the case.” It’s an expression of humility.)
Cameron: Yeah, I think those are always interesting to… um, interesting to learn, because sometimes I think how you accept a compliment is seen as a sign of how well you know a language. And there's a very similar expression in Korean, where someone compliments you in Korean you are not supposed to go and thank them, you say, “잘 하기는요.” Which is, “What are you talking about? It’s not that good.” You're minimizing the compliment. I think whatever language you're learning, it's not always about sort of those literal translation, it's much about these nuances of saying the right thing in the right context. I think little situations like this are a great way to learn, and if anyone also has like further questions about very specific situations, please, you know, tweet them at us. We'd love to hear about, if you can think of very strange specific situations, I'm curious to see what Raymond would say. I’m also curious to see what other listeners might say when encountering these different situations because they might be different, there might also be other sort of new slangy ways that people would engage with this sort of stuff.
(Yes, you’ve brought up a very important point. For a time we think, what should I be saying in this language? Purely it’s a very simple, “This must be right” or “This must be wrong.” However, as we have seen with these examples from just now, there are many different factors, perhaps they are cultural factors or identity, perhaps there is some background, so there will always be some change/variation. So I think my last hint is that I think it’s better for all of you to be more courteous rather than not be courteous.)
(So if you aren’t sure whether to use do1 ze6 or m4 goi1, I would suggest that you say do1 ze6 over m4 goi1. That’s because m4 goi1 can become impolite. With do1 ze6 some people might think that you are being overly polite. Sometimes I hear people being too cavalier and using too many m4 goi1, but I think with do1 ze6, particularly for beginning learners, being more polite is more appropriate.)
Cameron: Alright, that's a great, I think, principle to err on the side of politeness, whether we're speaking Cantonese, speaking English, pretty much doing anything in life. Yes, erring on the side of politeness is probably a good idea, so when in doubt, err towards “do1 ze6”.
(Yes, so thank you for bringing up such an interesting topic for today.)
Cameron: It was my pleasure.