Chinese Compliments

Chinese Compliment Responses

  • Rejecting
    • Disagreeing and denigrating (No, I’m older and uglier.)
    • Expressing embarrassment (Don’t say that. I’m embarrassed.)
    • Explaining (No, I didn’t watch my diet and I’ve gained some weight.)
    • Thanking and denigrating (Thank you, but the sweater is not that nice.)
  • Accepting
    • Thanking only
  • Most responses to compliments in Chinese tend to be rejections, characterized by disagreement and self-denigration.

  • The norm of Chinese society is to appear humble. Modesty is one of the most important constituents of self-image. As a result, Chinese speakers choose to lower themselves when responding to compliments, believing that appearing humble will help maintain and enhance their face and image.

Above passages from Chen (1993), p. 55 [©].

[ Research notes on the section above... ]



Chen, R. (1993). Responding to compliments: A contrastive study of politeness strategies between American English and Chinese speakers. Journal of Pragmatics, 20, 49-75.


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