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I have been on the receiving end of an unexpected gift. Actually I was in a restaurant and the owner (who knows I am learning Cantonese/Mandarin), just gives me some dong gua tong (soup). I didn't order it and the situation made me wonder what is the appropriate phrases for receiving unexpected gifts. I recall that in Cantonese one can say doh je! instead of m goy (or m goy sai) and I think in Mandarin xie xie might suffice but I'd like to ask what other appropriate phrases exists?

I am sure many variations may work but I'd appreciate some more insight if there are phrases which might be more appropriate than others.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Since you are using the reference "dong gua tong" (冬瓜湯, white gourd soup), I assume the restaurant owner is a Cantonese speaker.

The following are some commonly used responses to express your gratefulness from receiving a gift in Cantonese/Mandarin. The last two are not quite suitable in your case. They are generally used when you receive something which is bought by others as presents.

  • 乜咁客氣呀! / 你太客氣了!

    • That's very generous of you!
  • 多謝晒! / 謝謝你!

    • Thank you!
  • 乜咁破費呀, 多謝晒! / 要你破費真不好意思, 謝謝啦!

    • Thanks so much for spending money on buying this gift for me!
  • 多謝晒! 我好中意呢份禮物呀! / 謝謝! 我好喜歡這份禮物!

    • Thanks! I really like this gift so much!


In general, the difference between "唔該" and "多謝" in Cantonese can be summarized as follows:

  • 唔該

    • Used to express your thankfulness towards someone who did something to help you out.
  • 多謝

    • Used to express your thankfulness towards someone who offered you something without requesting anything in return.

The aforementioned difference in Mandarin is not as obvious as it does in Cantonese. You may use "謝謝" in both situations. The phrase "勞煩你了" or "麻煩你了" in Mandarin is similar to "唔該" in Cantonese. "勞煩你了"/"麻煩你了" can be literally translated as "Have you troubled/bothered".

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Could you provide some appropriate samples for Mandarin as well? – Tommie C. Jul 25 '14 at 2:26
@TommieC. The answer is now updated. – Seraph Cheng Jul 25 '14 at 2:37
These are great edits and the note was very useful. It would be helpful to know if the differences in the Note are accurate in Mandarin or whether (and which) different phrases be used? – Tommie C. Jul 25 '14 at 3:57
@TommieC. My pleasure. I have editted the answer in response to your comment. – Seraph Cheng Jul 25 '14 at 4:45

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