Duibuqi vs. Baoqian

Dui4buqi2 (对不起) is the Chinese word for “sorry.”  It can also be used to mean “excuse me,” for example if someone has to ask you to move aside on the bus or elevator when he or she wants to get off.  A westerner may find it strange for someone to be apologizing to him on such occasions.  It can also be use to interrupt someone while he or she is speaking, if necessary. Bao4 qian4 is a more direct way of apologizing and is not often used to excuse one’s self. You can practice Dui4buqi2 (对不起) here.

Here’s a lesson by Peggy in Taiwan.  She uses bu hao yisi, “I’m embarrassed,” to mean “excuse me” and duibuqi to mean “I’m sorry.”  The boy replies meiguanxi, meaning “it doesn’t matter” or “no sweat.”

Here’s a song.  Dui bu qi.  The Pinyin is here. Get someone to explain it to you in English.

And another one you might enjoy.  Beginning Chinese learners, I guess. Duibuqi. Wo shi Meiguoren. Wode Zhongwen buhao.  Meiguanxi.

Míngbái, Bù míngbái, Bù míng bù bái


If you have studied Chinese for 4 or 5 months, you probably know míngbái ( 明 白 ), a Chinese word meaning ‘clearly understood.’  Bù míngbái ( 不 明 白) is what you say when you aren’t  quite sure or you are confused about the meaning of something. Wǒ bù míngbái (我 不 明 白) (I’m not clear).

When you are not clear about what your are hearing or reading, you can either apologize (Duìbuqǐ) (对不起) (which also means ‘excuse me’) and  say “Wǒ bù míngbái“  (我 不 明 白) and/or politely ask him to explain a little (Qǐng nǐ jiěshì jiěshì) (请 你 解 释 解 释). However, you would NOT want to ask someone to speak míngbái yīdiǎnr (speak it out a little clearer), because it would imply he is hiding something or lying.

A fun idiom is bù míng bù bái (neither clear nor white) ( 不 明 不 白 ) , used to refer to  hazy written or spoken ideas, speeches, talk, rules, or even behavior.  Laws are sometimes bù míng bù bái so that power can overrule law, when convenient.

One song shows you another way to use míngbái. The lyrics are written out in pinyin and translated into English in the notes.

A Song by Della Ding 丁噹 – Ming Bai 明白

There is another song called Ming Ming Bai Bai Wo de Xin. You can Youtube it, if you want. See how it’s translated.