I’m a big fan of flattery. I like to see people smile, and I like the idea that I added a little joy to their day, so naturally I like having an arsenal of phrases to use in Chinese to do just that.
In Chinese, complimenting people works around the same way it does in English, give or take a few cultural nuances, and below you’ll find ## phrases to help you compliment somebody in Taiwan.
First, here’s the way you say, “to compliment” or a “compliment” in Chinese.
ㄨㄛˇ ㄕˋ ㄓㄜ˙ ㄔㄥ ㄗㄢˋ ㄊㄚ。
wǒ shìzhe chēngzàn tā
I tried to compliment him.
When you compliment somebody or somebody compliments you, the response you may hear most often is 哪裡，哪裡 (ㄋㄚˇ ㄌㄧˇ， ㄋㄚˇ ㄌㄧˇ/nǎlǐ， nǎlǐ)， which means “where, where?” and is just a humble way to respond to a compliment.
You can think of it as our English version of saying “Nooooo, that isn’t true”.
nǐ hěn bàng
ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄣˇ ㄅㄤˋ
This can be used as a general compliment when someone has done something impressive, like cooked a good dinner, drawn a beautiful picture or learned a language.
ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄣˇ ㄌㄧˋ ㄏㄞˋ
nǐ hěn lìhài
ㄊㄚ ㄓㄨˇㄈㄢˋㄏㄣˇ ㄌㄧˋㄏㄞˋ
tā zhǔfàn hěn lìhài
His cooking is really awesome!
ㄊㄚ ㄕㄨˋㄒㄩㄝˊ ㄏㄣˇ ㄌㄧˋ ㄏㄞˋ
tā shùxué hěn lìhài
His math skills are really awesome!
ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄣˇ ㄧㄡ ㄒㄧㄡˋ！
nǐ hěn yōuxiù！
You are outstanding!
ㄊㄚ ㄕˋ ㄍㄜ˙ ㄏㄣˇ ㄧㄡ ㄒㄧㄡˋㄉㄜ˙ ㄧ ㄕㄥ。
tā shì ge hěn yōuxiù de yīshēng。
As a doctor, he is very good.
What’s the difference between 厲害and 優秀？
While 厲害 （ㄌㄧˋ ㄏㄞˋ／lìhài) can be used for things or people, 優秀（ㄧㄡ ㄒㄧㄡˋ/yōuxiù), can only be used to talk about people who are successful in their respective fields.
ㄋㄧˇ ㄐㄧㄚ ㄒㄧㄠˇ ㄏㄞˊ ㄏㄣˇ ㄧㄡ ㄒㄧㄡˋ
nǐ jiā xiǎohái hěn yōuxiù
Your Xiao Hai is so outstanding!
When you give compliments about children using 優秀 （ㄧㄡ ㄒㄧㄡˋ/yōuxiù), you’re also saying that they’re successful 成功 (ㄔㄥˊㄍㄨㄥ／chénggōng).
They might have become really outstanding in their field, like an engineer or a famous scientist.
Here’s an important distinction though.
People who are older and who have a higher seniority can say 你很優秀 （ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄣˇ ㄧㄡ ㄒㄧㄡˋ/nǐ hěn yōuxiù) to younger, less experienced people in a lower position as a compliment.
If you want to compliment someone senior to you, make sure to use 成功(ㄔㄥˊㄍㄨㄥ／chénggōng)..
ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄣˇ ㄘㄨㄥ ㄇㄧㄥˊ
nǐ hěn cōngmíng
You are so smart!
ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄣˇ ㄆㄧㄠˋ ㄌㄧㄤˋ
nǐ hěn piàoliàng
You’re so pretty.
This one is just for the ladies.
ㄋㄧˇ ㄏㄣˇ ㄕㄨㄞˋ
nǐ hěn shuài
You’re so handsome.
This one is just for the guys.
ㄋㄧˇ ㄉㄜ˙ ㄑㄧˋ ㄙㄜˋ ㄏㄣˇ ㄏㄠˇ
nǐ de qìsè hěn hǎo
Your complexion looks really good.
This is also a great way to start small talk when you see an acquaintance on the street.
ㄨㄛˇ ㄒㄧˇ ㄏㄨㄢ ㄋㄧˇ ㄉㄜ˙ ㄑㄩㄣˊ ㄗ˙
wǒ xǐhuān nǐ de qúnzi
I like your skirt.
You can expect to hear a response like “謝謝，我在 (地方) 買的(ㄒㄧㄝˋ ㄒㄧㄝ˙， ㄨㄛˇ ㄗㄞˋ ( ㄉㄧˋ ㄈㄤ˙) ㄇㄞˇ ㄉㄜ˙ /xièxie, wǒ zài (dìfang) mǎi de)” if one girl compliments another girl’s clothes.
ㄋㄧˇ ㄐㄧㄣ ㄊㄧㄢ ㄏㄣˇ ㄆㄧㄠˋ ㄌㄧㄤˋ
nǐ jīntiān hěn piàoliàng
Today you look really pretty.
Compared to the first phrase, this phrase just means that today the person looks especially beautiful.
ㄋㄧˇ ㄐㄧㄣ ㄊㄧㄢ ㄔㄨㄢ ㄉㄜˊ ㄓㄣ ㄆㄧㄠˋ ㄌㄧㄤˋ
nǐ jīntiān chuān dé zhēn piàoliàng
The way you dressed today is really pretty.
nǐ hǎo měng
You are mighty!
This is often said between guys although girls say it, too.
Try complimenting the local food. Trust me, the locals will be delighted.
ㄋㄧˇ ㄇㄣ˙ ㄓㄜˋ ㄅㄧㄢ ㄉㄜ˙ ㄏㄞˇ ㄒㄧㄢ ㄉㄡ ㄏㄠˇ ㄒㄧㄣ ㄒㄧㄢ ㄋㄜ˙
nǐmen zhèbiān de hǎixiān dōu hǎo xīnxiān ne!
Your seafood is all so fresh!
ㄋㄧˇ ㄐㄧㄚ ㄉㄜ˙ ㄍㄡˇ ㄏㄠˇ ㄆㄧㄠˋ ㄌㄧㄤˋ
nǐ jiāde gǒu hǎo piàoliàng!
ㄏㄠˇ ㄎㄜˇ ㄞˋ
hǎo kě ài
Have any compliments to add or questions to ask? Leave ’em in the comments below!
Note of gratitude: This post wouldn’t be possible without the help of YuYuan, our native Taiwanese speaker. Read more about her here.