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I have recently seen two phrases which, in my understanding, looked very similar to each other:

再看吧 [zài kàn ba]
考虑考虑 [kǎo lǜ kǎo lǜ]

However, I've been told that the first one means almost certain disagreement, while the other is similar to "maybe".

I'm aware that Chinese culture is very polite; at least, more than many Western cultures. However, I'm still wondering how to correctly (and politely!) express my attitude if I:

  • tentatively agree;
  • tend to disagree;
  • or certainly disagree;

Related: "If you say so": Dismissive agreement

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted
  • Complete agreement:
    没问题 (no problem)
    我赞成 (I agree)

  • Tentative agreement:
    还可以 (still okay)
    应该没问题 (should be okay)
    我不反对 (I don't object)

  • Neutral, non-committal:
    让我考虑考虑 (let me consider)
    让我想一想 (let me think about it)

  • Tend to disagree:
    再看吧 (consider about it another time)
    再说吧 (talk about it another time)
    这很难 (this is difficult)

  • Complete disagreement:
    不可能 (not possible)
    不可以 (cannot)
    办不到 (can't be done)
    我反对 (I object)

I notice that there are different answers to this phrase "再看吧". To elaborate, when a person says 再看吧, it means to disagree looking at the current state, but there is a slight chance that he/she may agree at a later stage if situation warrants a relook.

An example:

A: 明天去看戏好吗? (Let's watch a movie tomorrow, shall we?)
B: 我现在还有很多事要做,再看吧。(I am still busy right now, will consider about it another time.)

Usually, when a person give this kind of response, it is a tacit way of saying "no". The asker is expected to ask again at a later moment if he/she hopes to get an affirmative answer.

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tentatively agree: 没问题,我试试看
tend to disagree: 应该可以
certainly disagree: 再看吧

Native Chinese here, at least for me when I heard 考虑考虑 I won't take it as "maybe", rather it sounds a disagreement to me.

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Thank you. And what about 想一想? –  bytebuster Oct 10 '12 at 22:15
    
想一想 sounds what it literally means: "I'll think about it and get back to you later." Personally I'll treat it as a neutral response. –  lujan Oct 11 '12 at 2:10
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For me:

再看吧 is more like the English "We'll see how it goes". Which is not as strong as indicating certain disagreement, but can be used to mean that. Have a look at the two examples below:

有时间再看吧 - Let's look at it (the situation) again when we have time or I'll think about it later.

This is can be used in English to politely decline something, that is, you are deferring it indefinitely.

明天再看吧 - Let's reassess / have another look at the situation tomorrow.

You see in this situation, although you are saying you will think about it later, you have set a definite time. Far from being a certain disagreement. I guess it is certain disagreement for now, but not indefinitely.

考虑考虑 is similar to "Let me think about it". Again, depending on the situation, the same as in English, "Let me think about it" can also be used to defer someone indefinitely. This really depends on how it is said and how much trust you will have in the situation that this person will really get back to you.

If one of my friends asks me to do something difficult which involves things such as inconveniencing others, money or sacrificing personal time, but I am still willing to help but haven't worked out how I'm going to do it so it has minimal impact I will say something like "我考虑考虑,等一会儿再给你打" Let me think about it and I will give you a call back later.

As per your question above 让我想一想 is almost the same as using 考虑考虑, they both mean "Let me consider" or "Let me think about it".

So both of the above examples don't fit into the three points provided. They are more like being non-committal.

non-commitment: 让我想一想, 考虑考虑, 再看吧

tentative: 你让我试试看吧

dependent on outcome: 应该可以

not likely:有点难做, 应该是不行, 有可能做不到

not possible: 我是做不到, 不能做, 不行

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