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I quite like the expression 拜托, but I've never been 100% sure of what exactly it means in English, and I'm not quite sure how to use it properly in Chinese. Little help?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The literal meaning is 'to respectfully ask someone to do something', and sometimes it's used in that way. But often, even though it's used as a verb, 拜托你xxx can just be translated as 'please can you do xxx for me'. It's not as common as 'please' in English though, so it sounds more formal / polite.

You can also use it semi-sarcastically to show your exasperation with someone - nciku.com gives 拜托你闭嘴 (please just shut up) and 拜托你少管闲事 (I'll thank you to mind your own business).

As well as being a verb, you can use it on its own or at the end of a sentence. As above, this is either a polite phrase like "I'm begging you for your assistance" or a sarcastic phrase meaning "oh for God's sake" depending on context.

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+1 you nailed it. –  Laguna Jan 30 '12 at 21:49
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which 拜托 are you talking about? 拜托某人做某事. ask/request somebody to do something (for you).

or

拜托! Please!/Come on!/I beg you ....

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What's the difference between the two? I always thought it was more or less the same thing, which perhaps explains some of the confusion! Would you be able to explain a little more? –  Ciaocibai Jan 29 '12 at 7:37
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