When I go to the cafeteria for meals, when I finish eating and return my tray the cleaners often say 吃完了 (chīwánle = "finished eating"). I'm unsure how to reply, and say 对,吃完了 (duì, chīwánle = "correct, finished eating") or some variant.

Question: How should I reply to 吃完了 (chīwánle = "finished eating") after I've finished eating?

I'm unsure of why they're pointing out the fact that I ate my meal (what else would I do with it?).

  • 7
    You can simply answer 是的,謝謝。 They have to make sure the customers have finished eating so that they can clean up the tables.
    – user3a
    Jan 14, 2017 at 4:12

4 Answers 4


You don't really have to give a formal reply.

Similar scenario: A Chinese arrives home and sits on his own sofa. His wife may see him and asks "回来了?". It's like "hi" in a specific context.

So next time you may just node and smile. Feeling awkward not to utter a word? "嗯" is enough.


Your reply might seem a bit awkward to some people, nevertheless it's perfectly fine. The cleaners say this to show politeness, and do not really expect an answer. Thus, even 嗯 (politely) would be a good enough response.


Did you leave a lot of your food untouched? The cleaner is probably not pointing out the fact that you've finished your meal, but asking in a question form 吃完啦?(have you finished?), which sounds like 吃完了. Your answer can be simply as 是的, or as someone suggested 嗯 as a confirmation, or repeats the sentence in an affirmative way 吃完了.


dda and hcheung make an excellent point here. The cleaners will be at most a generation away from both poverty and the countryside, and an urban Chinese or an apparent foreigner leaving food on their plate may very well surprise them, and quite possibly stir hidden but deeply held feelings quite outside the realm of ordinary social discourse here.

I once, in the 1970's, found myself at a table at a ski resort in Hokkaido with non-Japanese speaking American soldiers on "R&R" from somewhere in South East Asia. They left large portions of their main meal uneaten, ate a dessert each and left more dessert on their plates. The serving staff, upstanding intelligent farm people, were deeply shocked and appalled.

It would not surprise me if the social evolution of Japan in the 1970's were somewhat similar to that in China today.

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