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In Chinese, we have the expression "冒昧打扰" màomèidǎrǎo.

To put it into a sentence: 冒昧打扰,请您见谅。 màomèi dǎrǎo, qǐng nín jiànliàng

Is there a similar expression in English?

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I would say it is equivalent to "Excuse me" in context when you need ask some people for help or a favor.

冒昧打扰, 请问去这个车站怎么走? - Excuse me, do you know how to get to this train station?

but 冒昧打扰 is kind of formal, we usually just say "打扰一下" in everyday life.

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you are absolutely right. We don't use 冒昧打扰 in everyday life as well. :) I am kind of looking for a formal way to translate 冒昧打扰, say, how would you use it in writing an email/letter? – Cici May 19 '13 at 4:09
@Cici hwo about "sorry to bother you"? in the formal written email/letter. – user2803 May 19 '13 at 4:39
@user2803 that would do~ – Cici May 20 '13 at 12:56

冒昧打扰 is a phrase that relates to Chinese social nuances. It is a very polite way of making an unsolicited request, usually to a stranger, and getting that person to help you when he/she is occupied with something else, or in a way that would inconvenient that person to a certain extent that it would usually be rejected.

Breaking it up:

  • 冒昧 means to be bold or taking the liberty to do something
  • 打扰 means to bother, disturb, interrupt or trouble

Some scenarios where this phrase could be applied:

  • A reporter trying to get an interview with a customer while he is having breakfast.

    Sorry to bother you, I am a reporter from XXX weekly. Can I do an interview with you?

  • An acquaintance trying to get a loan for his business over the phone.

    是我,老陈,冒昧打扰了.... 我的公司现在正面临财政危机,想向您借点钱周转。
    It's me, Chen, sorry for taking the liberty to call you....(after some beating around the bush).... My company is facing some financial difficulties right now, not sure If I can borrow some cash from you to help me tide over this period.

It would be overly polite to use this phrase if you are just asking for simple directions. But if you wish to persuade someone to bring you there instead, then, that would be quite an effective way to ask.

Further, to use 冒昧打扰 followed by 请您见谅 (pardon me) would be an overkill. Either which is already very polite.

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