One of the phrases that you’ll find you need after knowing how to say hello and thank you in Chinese is please. Knowing how to say please in Chinese consists of only one character, so there is only one sound to learn. (That’s the good news). The challenge is saying that character not only with the right sound, but also with the right tone. (That’s the bad news).
What is the Tone for Please?
Tones, pretty simply, are the pitches of the voice that are used as you are saying a word in Chinese. If you think of those pitches as though you are singing, you’ll have a better concept of what tones really are. In Mandarin, there are four tones, but we’ll just take a look at the third tone (since that’s the one needed in order to say please).
The third tone is also called the falling and rising tone, and for good reason! In order to say this tone, you have to let your voice drop and then raise the pitch again before you can stop “singing.” The tone is pretty unique, but I liken it to saying, “No!” with furrowed brow and hands on your hips. Literally, it almost sounds like a grunt of frustration, but that’s the essence of the third tone.
What is the Sound for Please?
If you use the PinYin system, then you can spell the sound as “qing.” However, for anyone not familiar with PinYin, you could think of the sound as “ch” + “ing.” Then, you’ll need to put it together with the tone.
Putting it All Together to Say Please
Since your voice needs to lower and then rise, figuring out which sound to use for the turnaround at the bottom can be a challenge. For native speakers, this thought never enters their mind because saying characters with tones comes pretty naturally to them. For those of us learning it as a foreign language, it seems a little tricky.
For me, I’ve found that saying the “i” from “ing” is a nice turn around point. Essentially, I use the “q” or “ch” on the way down, and then use “i” for the turn around. On the way back up, you then begin to connect the “ng” to the “i” sound to complete the character.
Grammar Note on Please in Chinese
Just one small note on saying please in Chinese is necessary. When considering sentence structure or word order, you’ll find that in general, the please should come at the beginning of the sentence. In English, we often say it at the end of the sentence with occasional uses at the beginning. For Mandarin, you’ll find that the majority of the time, please in Chinese begins the sentence.