How is 不用谢 (= Bù yòng xiè) understood by Chinese speakers?

Of course不用谢 “Bù yòng xiè” is one of the earliest Chinese expressions any foreign learner is asked to learn, and that it is used to politely reject thanks and approximately equivalent to English “you do not have to say thanks/thank me” is easy enough to understand. However, HOW native Chinese speakers understand “Bù yòng xiè” is NOT so clear, and that is what I would like somebody here to explain to me in detail. Let me describe the problem:

Since (= “xiè”) may be a verb (= “to thank”), but also a noun (= “thanks”, e.g., in 多谢 duo1 xiè” = “many thanks”), and the verb (= “yòng”) can take as a complement either a verb or a noun (phrase), the sentence 不用谢 (=“bù yòng xiè”) is structurally and semantically ambiguous. The source of the ambiguity is twofold: the lack of an explicit subject and the category ambiguity of (as either a verb or a noun, as stated).

There is no question that a subject is omitted in 不用谢 (and whether a complement /我们is also omitted depends on whether “xiè” is transitive or not), but the identity of the omitted subject is NOT obvious, and that is the main source of ambiguity. There are two possibilities:

The first, A, is this: If the omitted subject is a 2nd person pronoun //你们, then xiè” must be a verb (= “to thank”) and the approximate English translation must be either “you do not need to thank”, if   “xiè” is intransitive, or “you do not need to thank me/us”, if “xiè” is transitive and its object is also omitted.  Note that interpreting “xiè” as a noun in that case yields an incoherent meaning: “*You do not need thanks”. Of course, it is not the addressee that deserves and is in a position to reject the speakers’ thanks, but the speaker, who may politely reject them!

However, the omitted subject need not be a second person pronoun. There is a second possibility, B: In context, the implicit subject might be a nominal like “My intervention in your favour” or, in general, “What I have done for you”, and in that case the sentence “Bù yòng xiè” would really mean to Chinese speakers “What I have done for you does not require thanks”. Note that in that case “xiè” must be a noun, not a verb, since the verb “xiè” (= to thank) would require an implicit human subject and “What I have done for you” does not qualify as such.

QUESTION: How do you, native Chinese speakers, interpret不用谢? As in A, with “//你们” as an implicit subject and “” as a verb (and transitive or intransitive?), or as in B, with an implicit subject similar in meaning to “What I have done for you” and “” as a noun acting as the direct object of “”?

This matters to me because I want to understand Chinese ‘from inside’, so to speak. Mere 'contextual equivalence' (what bilingual Chinese-English dictionaries offer, if one is lucky) is NOT enough for a proper understanding of what speakers of Chinese really mean and say, and not understanding what natives think and say sooner or later leads learners to make mistakes which I myself would prefer to avoid from the start.

Thank you in advance :-)!

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Read this discussion by my limited English, Let me feel a lot of pressure.

不用谢,this is a sentence that subject and object be omitted. This sentence can not be used alone. The subject and object must be clear in context.

谢,in Chinese it as stress reaction of gratitude more like a verb of thanks. They must had someone acctived and someone recevied.


A say to B:谢谢你提醒我下车。(xie4 xie4 ni2 ti2 xing3 wo3 xia4 che1)

B say to A:不用谢。

It is means "you(A) do not need to thank me(B)" or "It is all right".

Thank you very much!

I imagine that reading my long post must have been difficult for somebody with little command of English, and I'm sorry for that, but my Chinese is still too primitive to even ask my question in it, not to mention explaining the reasons why a common expression like "不用谢" is less than transparent to me. As I suggested in my post, it is not that I do not know in what situations I can say "不用谢" and sound appropriate; what I do not know is how you native Chinese-speaking people understand "不用谢" in your minds. A bilingual Chinese-English dictionary does not help in that respect, because what it does is pair Chinese expressions with English ones that are more or less 'equivalent' in comparable situations, but that says nothing about the way the Chinese expression itself is construed and understood by native Chinese speakers.

Anyway, even in your awkward English you have given me valuable information, because you say that the omitted subject is "你" and that "谢" does take an implicit object "我". If so, you are endorsing my interpretation A above and telling me that "xiè" is a transitive verb. That discards my second interpretation, in which I contemplated the possibility that the implicit subject might be something like "What I have done" and "xiè" might be a noun (= "thanks") or (although I did not explain that, for simplicity's sake) a verb with a passive interpretation (= to be thanked).

If other native speakers agree with you on this, now everything is clear. Thank you! :-)

“Read this discussion by my limited English, Let me feel a lot of pressure.”


i would say the omitted subject should be the  person pronoun +  the effort that had been paid.

i think it's like "not at all".

the best translation i think should be "need not to thank"

"不用谢" normally can be extented to: “不用谢,这是我应该做的”, or “不用谢,没什么。” the similar expression is "不用客气".

as to the category of the "谢" here, i think it's verb, "用"is verb too. the similar form could be:不用看/不用想/不用解释/不用着急。

is this enough?

Thanks, zhangmei!

I no longer expected any more feedback on this, so I'm glad to see your answer.

With your proposal to understand the omitted subject to be the 'sum' of the person pronoun + the effort that has been '*paid' (> made?) you are trying to have your cake and eat it :-), but that analysis just CANNOT be correct. Let me explain to you why.

First, in general, no sentence in any language can have two syntactic subjects (nor two 'agents', etc., if you prefer to describe sentences in semantic terms). Just compare"*My sister, her boyfriend study physics", with two yuxtaposed subjects, which is ungrammatical, with the correct alternative "My sister AND her boyfriend study physics", where the two noun phrases "My sister" and "her boyfriend" have been coordinated to form just ONE syntactic subject (even if it corresponds to activities performed by two different individuals).

The reason is ultimately very simple: 'subject' is a (syntactic) 'function' (in the mathematical sense), and Subject of (x, y) (or Subject of (x) = y, in standard mathematical notation) NECESSARILY pairs x (= a predicate) with just ONE subject = y. Think of the function SQUARE (x, y) = {(1,1), (2,4), (3,9)... (10, 100).... }; by definition, 'square of x' = 1/4/9.... (depending on the value of x), but "*SQUARE of (x) = y, z" is an incoherent expression for ANY values of x, y or z.

Now, if a subject is omitted before "bú yòng xiè", as seems obvious, it CANNOT be "you AND the effort made...". First, because the resulting semantic interpretation is inappropriate: "*You and the effort .... need not thank/thanks" would mean something completely different. Note that whoever "you" refers to is NOT the person who has done something that deserves thanks (or not); that person is "me" (= whoever says "[You need not thank [me/us]/"What I have done does not merit thanks"). If you coordinate the expression that represents the "thanker" and the expression that stands for the "thankee", the result is a semantic monster that cannot be the subject of either "yòng" or "yòng xiè".

That would be enough to exclude your suggestion, but there is a second, and very powerful, reason: the TWO subjects you try to combine would require mutually incompatible predicates. As I explained in my original post, if the omitted subject is "nin2"/"ni3"/"ni3men"/, then "xie4" MUST be a verb meaning "to thank" and the omitted object, if present, MUST be "wo3(men)". On the contrary, if the omitted subject is a phrase like "what I have done", then "yong4" must be the main verb and "xie4" must be a noun functioning as its direct object. Why? Because the verb "xiè" requires a human subject, whereas the verb "yòng" does not.  It follows that IF the subject were the 'sum' of "ni3" and "MY effort..." (leaving aside the overall inconsistency of the resulting interpretation), whether we interpreted "xie4" as a verb or  a noun, the construction would be incoherent and impossible.

If your intuitions tell you that the best translation is "need not (to) thank (me)", then, obviously, the only possible omitted subject is "nin2"/"ni3"/"ni3men". Also, if what you take to be the best synonym is "bú yòng kè qi3", "kè qi3" is compatible only with a human subject, as well, i.e., "nin2", "ni3" or "ni3men".

In sum: yes, it is enough; when you think in Chinese you obviously interpret "bú yòng xiè" as "[you] need not thank [me]", rather than as "what I have done does not require thanks/need not be thanked".

Since the other native speakers that have intervened seem to agree with your intuitions, the question is settled, as far as I am concerned.

Thank you!

is "yuxtaposed" "juxtaposed"?

Yes, sorry.

  不用谢 ( Bùyòng xiè )  means Literally:   no need to thank.

This is quite straight forward.

The informal speech that is sometimes heard is shortened to 不谢 (búxiè).

This literally means   Not to thank.

This could be interpreted by non Mandarin speakers as a bit abrupt.  But I think native Mandarin speakers know it is short for 不用谢 ( Bùyòng xiè ).

1. "用谢 ( yòng xiè )" this pronunciation is not correct. It is "bú".

When next character is falling tone of "不", then its pronunciation is "bú".

2. "不谢 (búxiè)" can be know as "不用谢" by native Mandarin speakers.

It like use "pork" replace "pig meat" in the frequent case.

and most of us will do this Fancy Dan tone marking as soon as GOOGLE Translate and other dictionaries / translators do this correction also  ....  these software tools are the only way most of us can easily render Chinese Characters into Pinyin.

Thank you! Of course you are right as to the tone-change rule "bù" > "bú" when the next word carries another fourth tone. [There seems to be some disagreement, though, as to whether the results of tone adjustment are to be represented in pinyin or not. Some textbooks and grammars do represent them, others still transcribe each character with its basic tone. I opted for the conservative option in this case, but I know the tone sandhi rules and always apply them when I read pinyin, thank you. No problem in that respect].

Your second point is more interesting for present purposes, because it shows "xiè" immediately preceded by "bú". That would not be possible if "xiè" were a noun. If "bú" precedes, "xiè" must be a verb (its being an adjective is out of the question). That discards my second analysis and adds evidence in favour of the conclusion that has already emerged from this discussion, i.e., that "bú yòng xiè" is an elliptical version of "[ni3(men)/nín] bú yòng xiè [wo3(men)]". 

I wonder whether "bié xiè" (approximately "Don´t thank [me]") is also acceptable (or does it sound too abrupt?). If it is acceptable, that would add still further evidence in favour of the same conclusion, as "bié" must be followed by a verb. 

Thank you! Everything seems to fit!

1. "别谢 (bié xiè)" can be acceptable, but it sound too abrupt, so it use as "别谢了  (bié xiè le)". "了 (le)" at here is a modal particle.

Native Mandarin speaker more accustomed to use "不谢 (bú xiè)".

2. If "别 (bié)" translate as "don't", it must be followed by a verb. But based on the clearing context, the verb can be omitted.



don't say, don't move, don't leave, don't come here


The mother say to the son: "Aunt Wang want to introduce her niece to you."


Son interrupted: "don't (don't talk anymore), I go, I go!"


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