I've been trying to find out what is the polite way of telling someone that someone, specifically a relative, has passed away? I'm pretty sure it's not very nice to say someone died (死)。 Google translate suggests 他去世了。But is that right? Is it different for Cantonese?

  • To clarify, do you mean A is telling B that A's grandpa has died or A is telling B that B's grandpa has died?
    – jf328
    Oct 17, 2016 at 8:59
  • @jf328 I would actually be interested in both if there is a difference but for my example above I would be referring to the first example where A's grandpa has passed away.
    – aug
    Oct 17, 2016 at 9:02
  • 1
    去世 is used commonly and is polite as well, other words in the answers are correct but I double that people actually use them in modern life. 走了 is used commonly as well but it is not very clear unless is given the person is old and/or sick, it also depends on the context.
    – EXL
    Oct 18, 2016 at 2:24
  • Yeah I think I've heard some people say 走了but that might be too vague for some people I am mentioning it to so I rather just be more direct about it haha. Thanks a lot for your comment @EmmaXL :)
    – aug
    Oct 18, 2016 at 5:31

4 Answers 4


The common polite terms for 「死了」(died):

  • 過身 (passed away)
  • 去世 (left this world)
  • 逝世 (departed from this world)
  • 仙逝 (departed to the spiritual world)
  • 走了 (had gone)

Example sentences:

  • 他過身了

  • 他已經去世了

  • 曹操在 220 AD 逝世

  • 我祖父早已仙逝

  • 我父母都走了

走咗(走了) is the most popular one among Cantonese speakers because of the vagueness ( as if the dead person was just gone for a trip)

What is the polite way to say a grandparent has passed away?


could you provide the jyutping?

90% of the time Cantonese would use the two below:

我祖父過咗身 ngo5 zou2 fu6 gwo3 zo2 san1

我祖父走咗嘞 ngo5 zou2 fu6 zau2 zo2 lak6

  • Thank you! Actually if possible, could you provide the jyutping? Sorry I'm an ABC so its hard for me to find it unless I get my parents to read it to me haha. I can find pinyin pretty easily but not cantonese pronunciations
    – aug
    Oct 17, 2016 at 22:03
  • 1
    I respect the fact that you use traditional Chinese and Cantonese, maybe it is worth to let the poster know? There are some grammar differences and I'm afraid beginner may not know the writing is in traditional Chinese, or it could take them a well to figure it out.
    – EXL
    Oct 18, 2016 at 2:27
  • I'm only talking about when the questions are asked in simplified Chinese.
    – EXL
    Oct 18, 2016 at 2:28



Appreciate the question and all the answers provided, I came across this post in search of the English term for 「歿」 for my work.

The usage will be a little different depends on which part of Chinese world you are at. I grew up in Kaohsiung, working, traveling and living in mainland China.

To add onto the The common polite terms for 「死了」(died)… by my ow understanding:

  1. 過世、去世 (passed away) <most commonly use in most area!>
  2. 離世 (left this world)
  3. 離開了、走了 (had gone) <too vague and confusing, sometimes we make fun by using these, but avoid in serious situations>
  4. 沒了(had gone)
  5. 往生 (passed away) <heard this a lot I was in Kaohsiung city, a polite way of saying someone died and very commonly used cause people believe in next life. A religious language in Buddhism>
  6. 歿 (dead)

Example sentences:

  1. 我祖父是前年過世/去世的。
  2. 我聽說有某個文學界名人是在2012年離世的,你記得嗎?
  3. 他昨晚急救不治,離開了。
  4. 老王早上出門上班,路上遇到突發的洪水,人就沒了。
  5. 小明同學家裡有人剛剛往生,你還是別打擾她吧!

BTW, I have never heard of 過身, so it's real new to me ;)


In addition to what Tang Ho says, you can use 没了.

没 is homophonic to 殁(die) in old Mandarin as well as many other Chinese languages.

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